Rebekah Heppner, Master Gardener Volunteer Trainee
How many trees are there in the City of St. Petersburg? No, this isn’t a trick question or a game like how many marbles in the jar. The St. Petersburg Urban Forestry Committee, a part of the City Beautiful Commission, is undertaking a tree inventory. Why, you might ask. Trees store CO2, that bad gas that everyone is so worried about these days. There’s a lot of talk about reducing our CO2 emissions, but not much on increasing sequestration. Maybe because “increasing sequestration” is much harder to say three times fast?
And wouldn’t it be nice to know how much of the St. Pete tree canopy is long-lived Live Oaks versus relatively shorter-lived Laurel Oaks? And how many pines are left in Pine-ellas, anyway? How many of our trees are invasive non-natives that need to be cut down RIGHT NOW (I’m thinking of you, Brazilian Pepper).
There is a cool website where you can watch the tree inventory grow, but why not log in and get your own trees on the map? In addition to gathering data, the tree inventory teaches about tree species and their value. Once a tree is identified (common name or genus and species) and measured (height and diameter) it can be entered in the appropriate spot on the tree map. Only a small amount of actual tree hugging is required. Then the very cool mapping software not only shows you the Google street view of your tree, it calculates it’s economic value, breaking it down into stormwater management, property value, energy conservation, air quality and, of course, carbon sequestration. It is a real thing, see?
You say you aren’t good at identifying trees? Don’t have a clue what Pi is (needed to determine diameter) and can’t remember the tangent rule from high school trig class (used to measure tree height)? Don’t worry, the Urban Forestry Committee will provide training and tools that will make the identification and measurement easy—and maybe even fun.
This is a great project for families, neighborhoods, civic clubs and youth groups. You can start by reading the handy Getting Started Guide. Then, if you want to learn more or schedule an in-person training for a small group, contact Cathy Harrelson, Chair, St. Petersburg Urban Forestry Committee (CathyHarrelson@gmail.com).
Hope to see you hugging a tree soon!