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SBU's Impressive Planting Program

by Chelsea Moccio & Mark Woodruff

The Stony Brook University community can breathe easier knowing the University follows an ambitious tree, bush, and seedling planting program that is both expansive and impressive.

For those community members who do not know, the University has planted a total of 952 trees, 2,087 bushes, 645 saplings and 580 perennials over the past seven years. In April 2013 alone, the University planted 235 trees, 320 saplings, 328 bushes and 580 perennials, which is an impressive feat for such a short period of time. Saplings are defined as young plants developing from a seed, which mature and eventually become full size trees. The progressive planting effort is managed through collaboration between the Divisions of Facilities & Services and Campus Residences. Through its planting program, the University has removed an estimated 6.97 metric tons equivalent or 15,363 pounds of CO2 from the air.

"A significant number of the plantings are grown at the Research & Development Park Greenhouse using organic compost." explained Andrea Petterson, Landscape Manager. "The process is unique for some plantings and saplings as they are first planted in the nursery section of the Research & Development Park Greenhouse to mature and then transplanted to various locations on campus. The University planted a total of 1,463 trees, saplings, bushes and perennials in April 2013 alone," adds Petterson. The Research & Development Park Greenhouse has a number of sustainable initiatives including infrastructure that collects and reuses rainwater which is then used to irrigate a variety of plantings.

While this program specializes in planting native species - oaks, pines, and certain bushes - occasionally non-native species are also used as Long Island has been reclassified from Hardiness Zone 6a to 7b by the United States National Arboretum (Hardiness Zone is a geographically defined area in which a specific category of plant life is capable of growing, as defined by climatic conditions, including the ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of that zone.). This reclassification was instituted in March 2012 when it was determined that the Long Island region should expect a warmer climate with an average temperature increase of 1 degree every 11 years. As a result of this reclassification, the University adjusted its planting program and landscaping efforts.

"For all that's going on in terms of operations, the University has a very impressive planting program that is clearly recognized in the University community," Petterson said. Although the University has seen substantial growth with respect to students, faculty, and staff, it has also seen a tremendous amount of growth in the quantity of planted trees, bushes, saplings and perennials. Within the planting program, the University typically selects plants that are native species on Long Island are also aesthetically pleasing. Some recent planting locations include the North Entrance, Simons Center, Administration Building, Center for Molecular Medicine lawn, Heavy Engineering Building and along South Drive. An integral component of this program is the ability to own and operate a greenhouse which allows for a continuous cycle and aggressive planting program. Once plantings and seedlings mature and are removed from the Research & Development Park Greenhouse location, another group of seedlings is planted and the cycle repeats itself. New saplings and trees are planted with composted topsoil from South P Lot and the Roth Quad kitchen composter and are irrigated with rain water that is collected from the Research & Development Park Greenhouse roof. The Stony Brook University Planting Program stands as a clear example of the University's collective efforts to increase sustainability, decrease its carbon footprint, and beautify the campus environment.

Landscape Manager Andrea Petterson states that in a given calendar year, due to a combination of biotic and abiotic factors, the University West Campus normally sustains an average annual loss of approximately 30 trees. However 2012-13 was not a typical year as the region was hit by two devastating storms in a six month period over the fall and winter. In response to the extensive damage done to the campus landscape, which was well in excess of those expected numbers, the University is actively working to mitigate the losses. "We are continuing, and ramping up, our efforts with the Department of Environmental Conservation Tree Nursery in Saratoga, NY and have purchased 350 native tree and bush saplings. This is in addition to the 350 sprigs that were purchased last year. The University is also acquiring 333 bushes and 82 advanced trees, all native to the northeastern United States, and looking into purchasing an additional 70 White, Red, and Pin Oaks to replace the 70 lost along with 35 Eastern Red Cedars to keep the biodiversity of our woodlands active." says Petterson.

As a campus with such a wealth of natural features, Stony Brook has always been aware of the positive benefits the ecological surroundings offer and it is the intent of Stony Brook University to preserve as much of that environment as possible. Since 2006, the University has been successfully adding to its tree inventory and the additions are far in excess of what has been lost during storms during that period of time. The University is currently working towards a partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation and Cornell University to become part of Tree Campus USA. The Tree Campus USA program recognizes college and university campuses that:

  • Effectively manage their campus trees.
  • Develop connectivity with the community beyond campus borders to foster healthy, urban forests.
  • Strive to engage their student population utilizing service learning opportunities centered on campus, and community, forestry efforts.

Colleges and universities across the United States can be recognized as a Tree Campus USA institution by meeting standards developed to promote healthy trees and student involvement and Stony Brook University has worked, and is working, to meet and exceed those standards.

For more information on this initiative, please contact:
Stony Brook University
Office of Sustainability
E-Mail: sustainability@stonybrook.edu

Created by Application Support for Administration
Sustainability @ Stony Brook University