On June 9, 2018, 200 trees will be planted across the Studley and Sexton campuses to celebrate Dal’s 200th anniversary and the beginning of the University’s third century. Volunteers are welcome! If you are in the neighbourhood, please stop by and join the festivities.
In December 2017, students Racheal Cadman, Sara Solaimani, and Nameeta Sharma presented “A Class Project on the 200 in 200 Dal Tree-Plant Project” as part of the Peter Duinker’s class on Sustainable Urban Forests. The project brought form and practical detail to a concept initiated by Dr. Duinker during the University’s search for project ideas to be included in the celebrations of the 200th anniversary. Now the project is becoming a reality, led by Dr Duinker, a professor in the School for Resource and Environmental Studies of the Faculty of Management, in partnership with Facilities Management and the Office of Sustainability.
200-in-200 Dal Tree-Plant Project will establish “learning groves” that will allow students, now and in decades to come, to engage in active learning focused on native tree species. For that reason, tree selection, association, and location were critical as outlined in the following excerpt taken from A Class Project on the 200-in-200 Dal Tree-Plant Project by Racheal Cadman, Sara Solaimani, Nameeta Sharma (December 2017)
Native species were preferred because they provide an opportunity for students to learn about Nova Scotia ecosystems, and because native species provide a first step towards restoring some ecological heritage on Dalhousie campus. Over the years, campus grounds managers and city planners have favoured ornamental or non-native tree species. This tree plant provides an opportunity to start restoring the natural Nova Scotian ecosystem.
One grove was designed to be a Carolinian grove and contains multiple species native to the Carolinian forest. The Carolinian forest is located in southern Ontario, and is an area dominated by broad-leaf trees (Government of Canada, 2014). This area of Canada is warmer elsewhere in the country, and therefore several tree species grow there that are usually only found further south, such as tulip trees, cucumber trees and sassafrass (Government of Canada, 2014). There is reason to believe, because of these species’ affinity for warmer temperatures, that they may thrive in Nova Scotia as the climate changes in the coming decades (Peter Duinker, personal communication). A Carolinian grove may therefore help to maintain a more resilient canopy on the Dalhousie campus, and provide an additional learning site.
The plan does not consider planting any invasive species, particularly Norway maple. Several native species, such as Ash, are not included in large numbers because they are particularly susceptible to diseases or pests, as Ash is susceptible to the Emerald Ash Borer. American beech, which is affected by beech bark disease, has been replaced by its non-native relative, European beech. While this species is not native to Nova Scotia, it is resistant to beech bark disease and can replace the native species as it dies off. Finally, no fruit trees are included in this plan. It was determined that fruit trees should be avoided to eliminate the need for associated maintenance and clean-ups.
Designing the composition of each grove required an understanding of the associations between tree species. A total of 16 groves have been designed based on that research. In general, groves were designed by first choosing a focal native species from the tree list. The grove was designed around the focal species based on its known associations. When no specific or strong associations were known, tree species were grouped with other species with similar loose associations such as preferred growing conditions.
Many of the groves were explicitly designed based on environmental conditions and tree habitat preferences. For example, for sites with established canopy cover, shade-tolerant species are preferred, such as Sugar maple, Balsam fir or European Beech. In sites that are known to have moist soil, tree species that flourish in water are preferred, such as Red maple, White ash, or Balsam fir. It is recommended to plant more than the 200 trees needed, as some mortality is anticipated.
Learning grove sites were selected in a series of walkabouts to find appropriate locations…Notable features are included for certain sites, such as habitat conditions, or area size. The locations were selected based on a few criteria:
- The sites were large enough to hold at least five trees, spaced approximately 3m apart;
- The sites did not have heavy foot traffic that would damage the young trees;
- The sites were appropriate for tree planting (i.e. on Dalhousie property, open soil or grass areas, relatively dry and with access to sunlight); and
- The sites would not be affected by Dalhousie maintenance or construction projects in the foreseeable future.
Sites were also reviewed on a walkabout with Dalhousie Environmental Services Manager, Mike Wilkinson, who was able to confirm which sites would be available and suggest some additional places for groves. A total of 22 places were identified as possible sites for learning groves.