URBAN FOREST ECOSYSTEM RESEARCH

Urban Forest Ecosystem Research is the scientific exploration into the services trees provide to ecosystems, the urban environment, and humans. In 2004, Urban Releaf expanded it’s activities to encompass scientific research. Since then, it has completed four studies related to air quality, water conservation, and the socio-economic benefits of trees.

CLIMATE PROTECTION IN WEST OAKLAND

This two-year study, funded by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and CALFIRE, focused on the capacity of trees planted in West Oakland to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs), air pollution (i.e. particulate matter), and building energy consumption. During the study, approximately 1,000 trees were planted nearby buildings so that shade and climate effects could be evaluated. Using the Center for Urban Forestry Research Tree Carbon Calculator, Urban ReLeaf quantified annual energy reductions, emission reductions, carbon dioxide sequestration and above ground biomass for 10 regularly planted tree species.

31ST GREEN STREET DEMONSTRATION PROJECT SITE

This highly innovative, nationally significant project demonstrates an integrated approach to scientific research, tree planting, and community outreach to meet neighborhood revitalization objectives. Through our partnership with UC Davis Scientist Qingfu Xiao and contract with Hyphae Design Laboratory, the project aims to design and install 20-40 trees with storm water swales as well as monitor storm water retention from at least 1 pilot site. Urban Releaf aims to educate local residents about the benefit of trees utilizing workshops and a variety of developed educational materials. The project aims to bring much-needed greenery and attention to a residential street currently devoid of any shade trees. Furthermore, the project area experiences numerous socioeconomic issues, and is representative of many such neighborhoods across the nation.

ETTIE ST. WATERSHED RESTORATION AND PROTECTION PROJECT

URBAN RELEAF STAFF COLLECTING STORM WATER RUNOFF SAMPLES

Our urban watershed restoration and protection project was conducted in one of California’s oldest urban watersheds – the Ettie Street Watershed in West Oakland. During this three-year study, 1,394 trees were planted on either private property or school campuses throughout the project area. The water samples that were collected from the throughfall and stem flow of each tree, rainwater from open space, and runoff from the two city blocks were laboratory analyzed for nutrient and heavy metals contents.

Through our partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and U.C. Davis, we designed several experiential/environmental educational training opportunities for 10 local youth employees. Subject areas covered in these educational trainings included tree care/maintenance; tree health/condition assessment; tree identification and selection; storm water runoff pollution; Global Positioning Systems (GPS); and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

GIS DATABASE TREE SPECIES DOCUMENTION, AVAILABLE PLANTING SPACE, AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS FOR PROJECT AREA

The overall results of this research project indicated that increasing regional canopy coverage is a solution to reducing pollutant loading into the San Francisco Bay. The existing street trees, once mature, had the potential to reduce a total of 946 lbs of pollutants that travel to the San Francisco Bay each year.

ETTIE ST. URBAN FORESTRY SOCIAL EVALUATION

The goal of this project was to examine the social benefits of forest greening applicable to communities of the East San Francisco Bay Area, in particular, West Oakland residents. These social benefits include increased community involvement, raised levels of environmental awareness, creation of youth jobs, advocacy of environmental justice issues, and the larger watershed benefits of tree planting.

Of the many things we gleaned from this research, we found that the youth involved in our program feel more engaged in long-term environmental stewardship and are more likely to pursue careers in this field. Therefore, it is crucial that Urban Releaf engage urban youth in every greening project to support and encourage their personal, academic, and professional growth.