A Tree Grows in Springfield


Melanie Koerth ’15, an Environmental Science major, enhanced her classroom work by participating in field work in Springfield. Koerth and Daniel Strom, are using a densitometer, an instrument used to measure a tree’s canopy.

In the aftermath of a tornado that ripped through Springfield, Mass., on June 1, 2011, one third of the trees in the areas hardest hit had to be removed. Now, a team of UMass researchers and students is aiding the “ReGreen Springfield” plan to replant 3,830 trees, studying each newly planted tree to determine how well it is growing and which ones survive best in urban conditions.

“To gain the most benefits out of a reforestation, it is critical to know how quickly the tree establishes itself and whether it will survive,” says Brian Kane ’97G, ’02PhD, arboriculture professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation. After the study is completed in a few years it will provide evidence of which species best thrive. “The study has immediate value for practitioners. They’ll know what’s going to work in a given set of growing conditions and the study will help other communities that suffer damage from extreme weather events,” says Kane. The research will form the foundation for future urban forests and avoid wasting thousands of dollars in replanting trees with high mortality rates. The trees planted in Springfield—from sugar maples to Japanese Zelkovas—are still too young for conclusions to be drawn about their health and sustainability.