More than Just Trees

With spring in full bloom, the colors along the Atlanta BeltLine are coming into view. The trees, plants, and flowers that brighten the corridor do more than just provide beautiful backdrop; they enhance the lives of all those who step outside and utilize the Atlanta BeltLine.

Our partners at Trees Atlanta are building the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum, a 22-mile linear arboretum that will complement the parks, trails, and transit around the corridor. Reforestation is key to the program, and the arboretum will increase awareness and knowledge on the benefits of plant restoration.

Trees Atlanta conducting tree measurements with students along the Eastside Trail
Trees Atlanta conducting tree measurements with students along the Eastside Trail

This past summer, the Atlanta BeltLine team had the privilege of working with the Geospatial STEM Academy at Georgia State, which prepares local high school students for careers in geospatial technology. Four organizations throughout Atlanta turned to the students in order to gain solutions to their problems. The Atlanta BeltLine presented the students with the challenge of tracking tree species around the corridor. Students were able to choose their partner, and from there got straight to work.

Students working with the Atlanta BeltLine jumped right into the project doing field research, compiling information pertaining to the different tree species along the Eastside Trail from Irwin Street to Monroe Drive. They worked with a Geospatial App collector to organize the information that detailed the diameter breast height (DBH) of the different species while also noting the conditions of the trees to determine tree health. The students also got the opportunity to work alongside Trees Atlanta, labeling the plants and familiarizing students with the different species. Within the four week window the students had to work, much was accomplished.

The Atlanta BeltLine now has a complete database of all the plant life present along the Eastside Trail allowing us to enroll the findings into the iTree Program by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program provides assessment tools for forestry analysis and its benefits, measuring the work in terms of environmental quality and community livability.

Early Tree Planting along the Eastside Trail in 2012
Early Tree Planting along the Eastside Trail in 2012

After submitting the collected data to the iTree program, it has been determined that along the Eastside Trail, 18,141 pounds of Carbon Dioxide are being withdrawn.

 To put that in context, 18,141 pounds is 9 tons. That’s equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide produced by driving a car with 40mpg around the earth 1.25 times. And that’s just a portion of the Eastside Trail. That number will only increase as the trees mature, as we plant more trees, and as we continue to restore and protect greenspace.

With Westside Trail construction advancing, the arboretum is expected to add 1,500 native trees and integrate more than 30 acres of inviting and usable new green space. Thanks to the students with the GSU STEM program, the Atlanta BeltLine now has a process for keeping track of existing and cultivated trees throughout the corridor.

The Atlanta BeltLine team is excited about the possibility of working with the Geospatial STEM program again. Before Historic Fourth Ward Park was redeveloped, concrete pads and unused space swamped the area. Redevelopment transformed the 17-acre space to include numerous amenities and, of course, grasses, trees, and other plants whose contributions will need to be measured in the same way as the Eastside Trail.

Photo Jun 02, 5 39 55 PM

The field of Geospatial technology is ever expanding and students got the opportunity to explore the different possibilities within the field. Not only were they able to walk away with more insight on a career that can help maintain sustainable communities, but they were also able to see the needs in their own community and play an important role with the Atlanta BeltLine.

So whether on bike or on foot, with friends or on a casual stroll, experience what nature has to offer along the Atlanta BeltLine. Join us out on the Atlanta BeltLine for a walking tour of the arboretum or just let yourself catch some the fresh spring air that’s blowing in. No matter what it is, we hope to see you out there!


One thought on “More than Just Trees Join the discussion below

  1. This is great. I am glad that Atlanta Beltline is working to help mature trees stay healthy and grow older. Older trees do contribute more to reduction of carbon dioxide vs new young trees. Many times new developers don’t grasp this environmental component and simply slash and burn and then plant new. Whereas a more modest approach of trimming and pruning would be better for the short and long term.

    “Rather than slowing down or ceasing growth and carbon uptake, as we previously assumed, most of the oldest trees in forests around the world actually grow faster, taking up more carbon,” said Richard Condit, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “A large tree may put on weight equivalent to an entire small tree in a year.”

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