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Kansas Forest Service wants to show benefit of trees

By The Mercury

LAWRENCE — Assessing a harvested tree’s value in board feet and bark chips isn’t hard.

The real challenge is to measure a living tree’s benefits — particularly for communities, their people, and the environment.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Office and the Kansas Forest Service will take on that challenge this summer.

Starting May 31, they’ll be measuring and inventorying trees and other vegetation on a random sample of one-tenth-acre plots of both public and private property.

The Douglas County project will use new software called i-Tree Eco, said Kim Bomberger, KFS community forester coordinating the project.

The Kansas City metro area tested the tool in a multi-state project in 2010.

“The USDA Forest Service and Kansas Forest Service hope that our results will serve as a model for hundreds of communities and counties across the nation.

The i-Tree Eco tool can be a way for cities and towns to measure the bottom-line results of trees, forests and community tree programs,” Bomberger said.

The approach is pretty straight-forward, she said.

“We won’t be trying to quantify trees’ proven benefits for wildlife, for instance, but we do want to illustrate the positive water-quality impact of forests along streams and rivers and show that forests contribute to human and community health - our well-being,” Bomberger said. “We will not focus on specific data from individual landowner properties. We’ll aggregate the plot data to create countywide numbers and values.”

The USDA Forest Service will complete the Douglas County data analyses. When the study’s results are in hand, local residents and community leaders will have real measures for such factors as:

•How much carbon dioxide and other air contaminants local trees are removing from the air.

Also, how much carbon the trees are storing in their wood.

•The effects local trees are having on buildings’ energy use.

Plus, the amount by which carbon dioxide emissions would increase if those effects were not in place.

“This should be interesting.

We often talk about the impacts that deciduous trees’ shade has on cooling costs and the impacts evergreens’ protection has on wintertime costs.

With this study we will be able to provide a specific dollar value of the annual savings in building energy reductions. In the Kansas City Metro area i-Tree Eco study, that amounted to $14 million a year” Bomberger said.

•The hourly rate at which the county’s urban and rural forests remove such air pollutants as ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.

•The composition of those forests, as well as their susceptibility to destructive insect pests.

•The structural value of trees and forests in Douglas County. Structural value is the cost of having to replace a tree with a similar tree. Bomberger expects this value to be calculated in the millions, if not billions, of dollars for Douglas County.

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