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Davey Resource Group Helps El Paso Quantify Its Trees

This summer, arborists from Davey Resource Group worked with the city of El Paso on a study about trees’ effects on cities. Here’s a story written about their work, as it ran in the El Paso Times.   

Published July 7, 2013

El Paso is one for four Southwest cities participating in a study of urban trees and ground cover to evaluate their impact in urban communities.

Certified arborists from the Davey Resource Group, based out of Kent, Ohio, just completed its study of 200 random plots in El Paso. They have previously been in Phoenix and will be surveying in Las Cruces throughout July and then continue with Albuquerque.

Flowering tree

"It's the first study of this type in the Southwest and is going to give us some valuable information about the condition of urban forests and the surrounding area," s aid Les Finley, arborist with the Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Department. "After statistically assessing the sample plots, it will provide the ecological advantages of trees in terms of dollars, energy contribution and storm water benefits."

 The study -- "Southwestern Forests -- Air Quality and Beyond" -- is a partnership between three states: the New Mexico Forestry Division, the Arizona State Forestry Division and the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Martin Jones, project coordinator for the Davey Resource Group, said the study in El Paso sampled most areas of town.

"It pretty much covered all of the city from the Sunland area, down by the border, around the airport and on the far east," he said. "It included residential, commercial, industrial, some open spaces and some parks."

Jones said the researchers found a good variety of trees in El Paso.

"We found a fair amount of native species," he said. "Geographically, you are limited in what you can plant. However, it was nice to see a fair amount of desert willows, various types of ash trees and, of course, mesquites."

The arborists are using computers with special software to take note of specific data, such species of trees, tree performance and size of trees, including canopy.

The results of this research will be used to evaluate broad questions about the impact of trees in the cities, including water management, carbon sequestration, climate and other positive effects trees bring to the urban environments.

Oscar Mestas, regional urban forester with the Texas A&M Forest Service, said it's an important scientific study that will provide a good snapshot of El Paso's vegetation.

"The reasons these cities were selected is because they were at risk of not meeting the EPA air quality standards in the past or near future. We wanted to see what effect urban forests can have in air quality in our cities."

Mestas said he is interested in the results of the study of El Paso. A final analysis is expected to be completed by January.

"I can always go and say trees are good and that they give us shade, but now I'll have data to say about our trees in El Paso," he said. "I will be able to say our trees collect 'x' amount of carbon or sequester 'x' tons of sulphur. I will have numbers that I can give people."

Mestas added that city leaders also will be able to use the data for future tree planning and planting.

"We hope they look at this and see that trees do have value and what they are doing -- that they are not just standing there but giving back to us removing pollution and reducing energy use. The study is also going to see the effect that trees have on buildings. So all these things will provide the city (leaders) with data that they have never had before.

"And maybe if they see that 'x' number of trees remove 'x' tons of air pollution, then maybe they will say, 'If we increase 1, 2 or 3 percent, we will have more benefits.' "

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