by Valerie Verkamp
A first-time recipient of Missouri’s Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance (TRIM) grant has used the cost-sharing funds to carry out a tree inventory to prepare for invasive pests and keep their community trees flourishing.
The City of Houston Lake in southern Platte County received $2,394 last year from the TRIM grant program. That funding paved the way for a multiple phase project to help keep the trees surrounding the lake healthy and thriving.
Throughout Houston Lake, with a population of 246 residents, there are 467 established trees. The quaint urban forest boasts 34 tree species--85 percent represent native species and 15 percent are exotic trees species. Within that bountiful mix, black walnut, American sycamore, black locust and Siberian elm dominate the urban forest structure.
“Now that we know what types of trees we have we can begin the hard work of maintaining them,” said Jan Jackalone, grant administrator of Houston Lake. “The tree inventory will allow the community to identify what neighborhood trees need attention, so they can continue to thrive. So far, we have identified three trees near Houston Lake City Hall that need immediate attention. We will soon be collecting bids for pruning and trimming.”
Four of the 34 tree species surrounding Houston Lake were identified as invasive based upon their vigor, ability to adapt, reproduce and general lack of natural enemies. Although invasive species make up a small portion of the total tree population in Houston Lake and perhaps inflict only a minimal level of impact, officials believe they are better prepared to address these potential risks.
“Rather than just responding after a weather disaster or pest invasion, the TRIM grant program will allow us to plan ahead,” said Jackalone.
For instance, the tree inventory identified several tree species that have been greatly threatened by pests, including elm and oak trees. The emerald ash borer, Dutch elm disease and Oak wilt were identified as the most threatening pests to Houston Lake. Potential damage could inflict a loss of $143,700 in structural value—that is the cost of having to replace a tree with a similar species, according to the I-Tree Ecosystem Analysis.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to protect trees against these potential pests.
At a later phase, city officials would like to plant a few more native trees to encapsulate the carbon dioxide and pollution emissions from vehicles traveling along the nearby interstate.
“The urban forest can help improve air quality by reducing air temperature, directly removing pollutants from the air, and reducing energy consumption in buildings, which consequently reduces air pollutant emissions from the power sources,” states the i-Tree Eco analysis.
Last year, Houston Lake trees sequestered about 3.425 tons of carbon with an associated value of $444, states the report. That amount is expected to increase with the size and health of the tree.
“As a tree grows, it stores more carbon by holding it in its accumulated tissue. As a tree dies and decays, it releases much of the stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Thus, carbon storage is an indication of the amount of carbon that can be released if trees are allowed to die and decompose,” states the analysis.
Not only do trees improve human health and our environmental quality, they alleviate excessive surface runoff. Stormwater picks up substances like fertilizer, pet waste, litter and automobile fluid. Commonly surface runoff in urban areas can cause pollution to enter lakes, wetlands and rivers.
During mild and heavy downfalls, water that is intercepted by the root systems of plants, trees and shrubs will reduce surface runoff. Based upon annual precipitation last year, Houston Lake avoided an estimated 8,942 cubic feet of runoff thanks to its urban forest.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) awarded $382,914 to communities across Missouri through the TRIM grant program. TRIM is a cost-sharing program that helps government agencies, public schools and non-profit groups with the management and conservation of trees on public land.
Tree inventory, hazardous tree removal, pruning and tree planting are among the many eligible projects the TRIM grant supports in countless Missouri communities. Houston Lake was one of 35 communities to receive the grant in 2017.