A Crowdsourced Tree Map – Benefits of trees aren’t the same for everyone

South King County Cultural Coalition (SoCoCulture) was founded in 2004 and is a resource for the community to learn about the many opportunities available from 70+ member arts, botanical and heritage organizations in South King County.

In fall 2018 the coalition provided an Engaging Trees speaker series which included a panel discussion, a local educational hike, and presentation from author and environmental reporter Lynda Mapes on her book Witness Tree. Four years ago, SoCoCulture conducted an educational campaign on how to plant and prune urban trees. Since May of this year they have started a Crowdsourced Tree Map as a part of SoCoCulture’s Engaging Trees Initiative, which involves several of our member botanical gardens and heritage groups in South King County. This map created by everyday people, tells the story of trees around us in urban King County. Anyone can contribute stories that range from creative, to historical, metaphorical or experimental. The map creates an outlet to recognize special trees in a diverse, plurality of ways in which we can find them beneficial. The steps to participate are simple: take a picture to upload it on the site; Post a description (up to 200 words).

At King Conservation District we focus on environmental services. Our mission of responsible land stewardship means we aim to help landowners with technical assistance, education and cost-share to improve natural resource management. Our upcoming research from i-Tree Hydro helps city planners and urban foresters efficiently and accurately calculate the beneficial impacts of urban forest canopy cover. Urban trees can slow down runoff during rain events and help keep water clean. A medium aged beech tree can with transpiration pull up to 130 gallons of water from the soil (Wohlleben, 2016). While helping filter and remove water trees increase permeability of the soil beneath their canopy to store groundwater. Trees can hold up to 30% of water low intensity rain event thus slowing down the impact of rain decreasing storm water impacts such as erosion, flooding and contamination.

Trees Are The ViewNot surprisingly a large threat for urban trees is from urban development. We may understand the benefits of trees, but we don’t value them. We can tote the benefits of trees with all the scientific precision required for city planning, but when it comes down to specific, individual trees in our neighbored, we don’t prioritize them.

It is a hassle to protect trees during construction when you could simply replant them. Often planting trees seems like burdensome maintenance and water requirements. Properties don’t want an obstruction of any potential views, so trees are prune with disregard health.

Landmark trees, heritage trees. gnarled or young knobby trees, they all can be appreciated and recognized on this map to share their existence. Canopy assessments aside this map is crucial for to share the social/cultural benefits that can redefine our relationship to trees and protect their existence in our urban environment.

Citation: Wohlleben, Peter, et al. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World. David Suzuki Institute, 2016.

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