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I have just arrived to the U.S. On the way from JFK to Ithaca NY, I decided to stop by the new World Trade Center Memorial site. Falling water in two pools cancels the noise of the city, and a forest of trees on the Memorial Plaza brings more nature to this site. Trees are seen as “a symbol of hope and rebirth” and also play an important educational function by reminding us that the city is part of nature.

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From city to wilderness

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2012-west

Interestingly, in Russia many cities end abruptly into wilderness. Forest begins right after you leave densely built urban areas. There are few suburbs similar to what you see in the U.S. Below is a photo that I took a few weeks ago from my window facing east in one of my hometowns (Tomsk, Siberia, Russia), a city of half million residents. The temperature is -40 degrees, birch trees. The apartment is on the fifth floor, and this is the last building on our street. The wilderness begins right behind the building. The second photo is from the same apartment, but from another window in the opposite direction looking west. I think in Russia and the U.S. people have distinct approaches to how cities and suburbs should be developed.

Artificial trees

Artificial trees attached to a building in my neighborhood in the South Bronx (2011). Is it an expression of biophilia? Probably there were no tree pits to plant real trees.

Metal trees among real trees in Manhattan (2007).

What do people think about urban trees?

Christine Moskell at Cornell University is exploring what New York City residents think about urban trees. Answering this question may help Cornell Cooperative Extension-NYC and organizations related to MillionTreesNYC design better educational activities for communities and engage them in urban tree stewardship. Last year I spent a couple of days helping Christine survey residents in Queens, New York City. I volunteered because it was fun and because I could interview English, Russian and Spanish-speaking passersby. Christine, thanks for this great experience and good luck in your research!

Take a look at the survey results: Download poster (PDF).

Ecosystem services of urban trees

Last week we visited the Shanghai Roots & Shoots organization. They are planting one million trees in Inner Mongolia to mitigate desertification and offset greenhouse emissions. At the same time, Roots & Shoots educators want to inform people about a number of other ecosystem services provided by trees. It has reminded me about a one-pager “Ecosystem Services of Urban Trees,” which we have created last year for the Urban Silviculture research and education project (PI: Gretchen Ferenz) in the Urban Environment Program at Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC.

Download: Ecosystem Services of Urban Trees.

Environmental stewardship in the North Bronx

Michael Brennan, a student mentor in the summer youth employment program at Mosholu Preservation Corporation, talks about high-school students improving the environment in the North Bronx, New York City. Videography: Alex Kudryavtsev.

Students in the botanical garden

More than 20 high-school students participate in the Mosholu Preservation Corporation summer youth employment program in the Bronx, New York City. While they devote most of their time to tree stewardship and maintaining public parks, they also participate in a number of other learning activities. For example, students participate in a course on tree identification and pruning, and canoeing with the Bronx River Alliance. Today the students visited the New York Botanical Garden to see good examples of greening and landscaping. Jennifer Beaugrand, who organizes this summer program with student mentors, hopes that young people will learn some ideas about plants and landscapes in the NYBG and implement these ideas in their own communities.

Students near a Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Observing a riverbank restoration project near the Bronx River

At the Rockefeller Rose Garden