North Texas Daily

As buildings go up, trees come down

As buildings go up, trees come down

As buildings go up, trees come down
July 10
11:33 2015

Edith Emerald | Staff Writer


As the university postures itself with Tier-1 in mind, green spaces on campus must ebb and flow with construction zones.

Crews and operators hustle about campus, working on projects throughout. It’s a puzzle piece that fits into Denton, a city itself on the move. But the city’s canopy has not been evaluated since 2010.

Bruce Hunter of UNT’s geography department conducted the study using a Geographic Information System that creates maps with satellites. The study found trees cover 10,652.7 acres — 18.6 percent — of Denton’s 57,110.8 acres.

Aside from the canopy within the city limit, the canopy just outside Denton composes 8,910.8 acres of the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. The Denton ETJ is an area outside of city boundaries where it can expand if needed — like growing room.

Where shrubs and short mesquite trees dominate Discovery Park, 62 of the main campus’s 663 acres make up the UNT canopy, provided by a little more than 3,700 trees.

The City of Denton’s Urban Forester Morgan Haywood said the city requires developers to follow Development Guide 35.13.7 in the effort of replacing lost trees, preserve existing ones and improve environmental conditions.

The Development Guide provides steps to preserve trees in different areas of Denton and ways to replace trees that were cut down. There are also guides for trees on the streets, maintenance and minimum canopy requirements.

“It’s all trying to replace all the inches that were lost,” Haywood said. “In the short term you may replace a 10-inch tree with two 5-inch trees, for example, and it may not have the canopy but in 10 to 20 years you can have more canopy than what you took out.”

Benefits of canopy coverage include cooler and cleaner air by reducing pollution and carbon content.

“Trees are important because they are a cooling mechanism for the earth through transpiration,” said Lanse Fullinwider, UNT grounds manager. “The trees are absorbing water in their roots, going up through the tree trunk and then that water gets out as moisture through the stomata in the leaves.”

Fullinwider also said trees bring the immensity of a building into scale with the earth. For example, the Pohl Recreation Center has trees in front of the building to soften its appearance.

But it’s unclear whether or not the Denton canopy has receded in the last five years., Hunter said. Denton has lost many trees due to the harsh drought Texas has gone through over the past three years and others have fallen because of campus construction or citywide revamping projects.

Nonprofit group Keep Denton Beautiful is replanting trees to combat any losses to the city.tree_graphic

Tree graphic by Edward Balusek | Editor-in-Chief

Lauren Barker, program director of KDB, said the group gives away free trees to preserve the canopy in Neighborwoods and hosts Tree Giveaway, a gifting program to individual households.

Barker has worked with students under the tutelage of UNT geography professor Lisa Nagaoka.

“Trees are always of interest to students, so it’s what the student’s are interested in and part of this is talking to the people in KDB,” Nagaoka said. “We try to treat it as doing consulting work. What are you interested in? What kind of data do you have? What would you like to know about?”

Another ongoing research project is titled “Impact of Tree Giveaways.”

After four years of data research, the report summarized KDB has given 3,500 free trees through the Tree Giveaway.

Nagaoka and her researchers said much of the canopy is made up of trees in neighborhoods. This is because of Denton being primarily agricultural during the 20th century, where soy and corn were more common than trees.

Nagaoka said she expects the canopy to grow in the future. As neighborhoods age, so will the trees, which will result in a denser canopy.

But Fullinwider warned that UNT trees lack diversity in their species.

There are 30 canopy trees native to North Texas, including Blackjack oak, Texas Red oak, winged elm trees and Texas hickory. Most of the UNT canopy is made up of oak trees.

“If there was to be a case of oak wilt, a fungal disease that quickly kill oak trees, then UNT would be bare with almost no trees at all,” he said.

Featured Image: Denton is green for above but is slowly losing trees around town and on campus. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer 

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