July 27, 2010
Map created by Grace Chapman.
Tiny seeds hold the key to an ambitious carbon offset project that will add 2,000 trees to eight acres of Fairmount Park.
Part of the Philadelphia Zoo’s Footprints conservation program, the reforestation project is a comprehensive partnership between the Zoo, the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University, the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, and Fairmount Park with support from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and volunteers and community partners such as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Tree Tenders program.
According to Grace Chapman, Horticulture Staff Supervisor at the Ambler Arboretum, the project has already taken root at Ambler and, over the course of the next few years, will involve between 40 to 50 students from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture.
“Eva Monheim (Senior Lecturer in Horticulture) identified a need in the Arboretum to propagate our rare plants. When we were contacted by the Zoo, it was a perfect opportunity to combine these two important projects and help with their overall carbon offset program,” she said. “Our plan is to provide 300 plants per year, all native species — 400 seeds have already been planted at Ambler for the project. We intend to expand our growing facilities and plan to have volunteer planting days to get more students and the public involved.”
The Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture has received a $25,000 grant for the Fairmount Park project through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Five Star Restoration Program. The funding will support Temple’s efforts to raise healthy seedlings to restore urban forest and to educate University and area middle school students in the process, according to Dr. Mary Myers, Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture.
“This project is an opportunity to actively restore a piece of Philadelphia’s degraded urban forest,” said Dr. Myers, Principal Investigator of the grant. “University students will be teaching younger students in an exciting hands-on learning situation. There is no better way to learn.”
The grant will enable Temple to build a shade house to mimic forest light conditions for the seedlings as they grow. It also will provide assistance for a plan to include a group of Philadelphia middle school students as active participants in the project. The students, all eighth graders, will participate in hands-on workshops led by University faculty members and students, in which they will discover how to identify native trees, collect seed for the reforestation project and learn about carbon offsets — the students will also be directly involved in the tree planting at Fairmount Park.
The Five Star grant program is cooperatively managed by three non-profit organizations under an agreement with the EPA, including the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the National Association of Counties, and the Wildlife Habitat Council. The goal of the grant program is to bring together a variety of community groups in joint efforts to restore wetlands and wildlife habitat in their local area.
According to Valerie Peckham, Philadelphia Zoo Conservation Program Manager, the Fairmount Park Carbon Offset Project has three main goals.
“We want to reduce global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide through reforestation, restore native wildlife and habitat and improve forest connectivity in Fairmount Park, and increase local appreciation of wildlife and understanding of climate change effects,” she said. “It’s often difficult to become completely carbon neutral, so we are involved in the Fairmount Park reforestation project and similar reforestation efforts in Borneo to help others offset those emissions they can’t reduce.”
The Philadelphia Zoo provides a “calculator” at their Web site for visitors to determine their own “carbon footprint.” The Zoo will be returning to EarthFest to share important information about their conservation efforts in addition to presenting “Climate Change Alert” — a live animal presentation highlighting wildlife directly affected by climate change — on the EarthFest Main Stage at 10:05 a.m.
“We anticipate the result of the Fairmount Park project will be the sequestration of more than 660 tons of carbon dioxide over the 70 year lifetime of the trees. The trees will also provide habitat as well as food resources for migratory birds and other wildlife,” Peckham said. “Temple brings such wonderful expertise to this project — it’s a great resource and a great community partner. The students have shown a lot of ingenuity and enthusiasm.”
The native plants that are being propagated for the project “will increase the Fairmount Park diversity by using species that are close to the original source,” said Monheim.
“Provenance is an important component to this project — using regional plants for regional reforestation. Ambler is really the first to benefit from this project as our students are grounded in the actual process of collection, documentation, and developing propagation techniques that work, or perhaps may supersede, all expectations,” she said. “You can’t replace this invaluable experience of hands-on and student involvement — it is real life experience in real time. This makes the students have a closer and more valued connection to their school and they know that what they are learning is being applied in the field for the larger benefit of all.”
Photo by Leslie McDermott.
Volunteers, Peckham said, “won’t just plant the trees and forget about them.”
“The wonderful thing about this project is that it will go on for generations. Volunteers will see real manifestations of their conservation efforts through
the trees that they helped grow and nurture,” Peckham said. “They, hopefully, will gain further realization that we are all in fact part of the Web of Life — it’s not animals and nature on one side and people on the other. We all grow together.”
The Philadelphia Zoo, America’s first zoo, is home to over 1,300 animals from around the world, many rare and endangered. Welcoming more than one million visitors each year from throughout the region and beyond, the Zoo serves children and families as a unique and engaging public resource for wildlife conservation and education.
To learn more about the Philadelphia Zoo and the Fairmount Park Carbon Offset Project visit www.philadelphiazoo.org. Individuals groups interested in become part the Carbon Offset project, should call 215-243-5347.
The Ambler Arboretum of Temple University is a living, learning laboratory that promotes love and knowledge of horticulture, understanding of the relationship between people and the environment, and awareness of both the need for and means to achieve greater environmental responsibility. For more information about the Ambler Arboretum, visit www.ambler.temple.edu/arboretum/index.htm.