| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Development News

U.S. Forest Service working with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to study Philly’s "urban forest"

One might not expect to hear the U.S. Forest Service and Philadelphia mentioned in the same sentence. Yet, the federal agency has recently taken an interest in studying the city’s tree life, and is working with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Researchers have begun examining trees all across the city, in neighborhoods and in Fairmount and Pennypack Parks, and expect to work through the summer. This is all part of the agency’s new Philadelphia Field Station. 

Specifically, the agency is looking to gather data on the condition, size, and variation of local trees. This will enable the Forestry Service to generate hypotheses on the sustainable benefits of trees.

“We will be defining extent and dollar value for energy conservation, reducing air pollution, and greenhouse gas reduction,” says Phil Rodbell, a member of the Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry unit. Also, the study will analyze local trees’ susceptibility to pest threats and climate change. 

The Forest Service has identified over 400 tree sites scattered throughout the city, 40% of which are in city parks, says Rodbell. “We are in the field now,” says Rodbell, adding that his crew began doing research on 60 such sites last week. PHS has recruited interns for the study, and is housing the federal agency. The partnership between the national and the local was solidified at PHS’ Flower Show last year, when the head of the Forestry Service formally announced his commitment to local trees.

Philly’s Parks and Recreation and Water Departments are also involved. Parks and Rec is educating interns about invasive vines, shrubs, and plants, while the Water Department has handed over home addresses of Philadelphians whose trees get selected for study. Before the Forestry Service can study private trees, they have to obtain permission. 

The Forest Service has started a similar initiative in New Castle County, Delaware, working with the Delaware Center for Horticulture, New Castle County, and PHS, as part of the Plant One Million effort. The Forestry Service’s attention to Philadelphia and Delaware falls under its Northern Research Station, which is based in Newtown Square and covers 20 states in the Northeast and Midwest. 

Source: Phil Rodbell, U.S. Forestry Service
Writer: Andy Sharpe  
Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts