In two separate but related projects, Mississippi State is working to help small state and regional municipalities strengthen their urban forestry plans and programs.
Simultaneous efforts of the university's Forest and Wildlife Research Center, each will focus on the relatively new area of forestry that emphasizes uses and benefits of trees in cities and towns, said Stephen C. Grado, an associate professor of forestry, he directs both projects.
Using a statewide survey, the first investigation will seek to identify both current involvement in and future interest for urban forestry programs and assistance among Mississippi's small to mid-sized communities.
With assistance from MSU's John C. Stennis Institute of Government, researchers recently sent more than 260 e-mail and fax surveys to community leaders. The responses of mayors, public works and parks and recreation directors, as well as public safety officials, will help measure the success of existing urban forestry projects, Grado explained.
"This information will lead to programs and activities enabling professionals, governmental organizations, agencies, and communities to initiate or better promote urban and community forestry programs,” he said.
The second project will use the City of Hattiesburg to develop a predictive model for relating the benefits and costs for small Southern cities to the character and distribution of their urban forests.
Though funded primarily by the Mississippi Forestry Commission and U.S. Forest Service, the second study also is receiving support from the Southern Group of State Foresters and Mississippi Urban Forest Council.
While cost-benefit models exist for large urban areas in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, Grado said "there's not a model for small to medium-sized towns and cities in the South.” Large-city models can't be applied to most Southern cities because of differences in administrative structures, climate and size, he added.
The MSU research team will use the Forrest County seat to document the physical and aesthetic effects of trees in each of its diverse neighborhoods. Specifically, investigators will relate the presence of trees to such factors as residential property values, rate of pavement degradation, storm runoff, and the costs of removing damaged or decayed trees.
"The City of Hattiesburg has a tree ordinance requiring developers to have one tree per 3,000 square feet, provide green space in front of buildings and maintain vegetative buffers,” said Mark Anderson, an MSU alumnus now serving as the Hub City's urban forester.
"Trees here do more than provide aesthetics,” Anderson said. "They also protect our roads by shading them and helping manage storm water runoff.”
Grado said MSU researchers also will look at the costs and benefits of trees in other city-specific properties, including noise absorption, mitigation of perceived traffic proximities and potential energy savings from the deflection of intense sunlight.
Once the project is complete, Grado said regional municipalities "will have a new tool to evaluate, develop and implement urban forestry activities in ways that benefit their community.”
For more information, contact Grado at (662) 325-2792 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.