By: Darlette Meekins, Shobha Sriharan, PhD, Joel Koci and Laren Robinson
Virginia State University (VSU) is an Urban Campus that is committed to a “Campus Tree Care Plan.” This plan was implemented to add energy efficiency to buildings, improve the air quality, reduce storm water impact, and add an aesthetic appeal to the campus. In 2015, VSU was recognized as one of the Tree Campus USA sites. According to Dr. Marcus Comer (Cooperative Extension Specialist and Project Director of USDA NIFA Grant on Urban Forestry), “The University goal was to beautify the campus and return its bio-retention structures to optimal performance of their function - to remove pollutants from roadways and parking lots so that it does not enter waterways such as Fleets Branch and the Appomattox River.”
We all concur, that trees and woody plants are a vital part of our environment. They remove carbon dioxide, filter air pollution, and produce oxygen, absorb rainwater, UV radiation, and noise. Trees also reduce air temperature and control run off. Most trees absorb 70% of the water and 30% is run off. Pollutants are transported on the soil particles traveling as runoff.
As an extension of the above project, we have spent the last two semesters collecting additional field data for analysis on the slope, velocity, canopy cover and pollutants transported during runoff. Our study area encompasses the areas of Chester, Petersburg, Richmond, Sutherland, Hopewell, Virginia State University campus and along the Appomattox and parts of the James from Goochland County to the city of Petersburg, where the James and Appomattox Rivers merge.
This project involves comparing the tree type and the trees effectiveness for filtering and controlling run off during rainfall. We will be assessing the difference in weather conditions during fall, spring, winter and summer watershed; in addition to, concentrating our efforts on the topography of the area within 20ft radius up and down stream and 20ft. arc up the bank. Focusing on the canopy cover and pollutants based upon the slope, geology and azimuth of the topology. Data was collected from trees that were the closet to a particular body of water.
We will be using both iTree-Hydro and Eco to determine how much water each location gets and the amount of water the trees collect and/or filter. The height and canopy spread of the trees will be measured using a Hypsometer (Nikon Forestry Pro-Laser Rangefinder). We will also, map the differences in the amount of rainfall and the pollutants that are present in the area of deposition along the study sites.
As an extension to the students collecting data; we will be soliciting the help of the community to collect and transmit the water data to our database. The data collected will be analyzed to interpret the water quality at the study sites along portions of the James and Appomattox watershed.
The results will aide in determining whether a correlation between canopy and pollutants exists; in addition to deciding upon the need for improved bio-retention approaches in the study areas.