ACCGov’s Community Forestry Program is launching a collaborative Community Tree Study to collect information on the composition and environmental benefits of Athens-Clarke County’s trees. Led by Community Forester Rodney Walters, the program is partnering with the University of Georgia, the Georgia Forestry Commission, and the Athens Community Tree Council to conduct the study.
The project will help researchers and ACCGov staff to understand better the structure and function of ACC’s trees, as well as the benefits they provide. Tree benefits include stormwater runoff reduction, residential energy savings, and improved air quality. The project will also be used to inform future conversations and decisions about trees and the community tree canopy.
"According to research by the ACCGov Sustainability Office," said Walters, "Athens-Clarke County has the highest documented tree canopy coverage of any community with a population of 100,000 or more. We're very proud of that statistic and hope that this new study will help us better understand the composition, structure, function, and benefits of our community's trees."
The Community Tree Study will involve a statistical survey beginning in the next two months, followed by a set of analyses to understand better the local community forest on a countywide scale. Data will be gathered using iTree, a tool developed by the USDA Forest Service that provides forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools.
Throughout the summer, tree data will be collected on 228 randomly generated 1/10 acre plots around the county. Each plot may contain large trees, small trees, or no trees. Data gathered will include tree species, size, and health. UGA student field teams of two led by Dr. Jason Gordon will collect the tree information that will inform the Community Tree Study analyses.
The generated plots cover areas on both private and public land. The Community Forestry Program will contact residents or owners of any included private properties to obtain permission to collect data on their trees. Data collection is expected to take approximately one hour and will not harm the trees or the property.
"We're excited to undertake this project for the first time and hope that residents and owners who have plots on their properties will be excited as well," says Walters. "This is a great opportunity to have their trees represented in the Athens-Clarke County Community Tree Study to benefit many future generations."
The Georgia Forestry Commission is providing matching grant funding and support for the project with the goal of replicating similar future efforts around Georgia. The final study is expected to be released in fall 2021.
For more information, contact Rodney Walters, ACCGov Community Forester, at 762-400-7519 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.accgov.com/communitytreestudy.