1. Kansas State University
  2. »K-State Research and Extension
  3. »KSRE Tuesday Letter
  4. »Tree Diversity Vital to Canopy Conservation

KSRE Tuesday Letter

Other publications

K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

October 25, 2016

Tree Diversity Vital to Canopy Conservation

Submitted by Jennifer Williams

Hanging tree tags at the Kansas Forest Service in Manhattan, KS.

Planting a variety of trees in any particular area will make a big difference if one species is especially vulnerable to a pest or disease, as is currently the case with ash trees in Kansas and other states.

With that in mind, the Kansas Forest Service continues its partnership with Heartland Tree Alliance, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, Prairie Village, Kansas, K-State Research and Extension, Westar Energy Green Team, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to plant diverse species of trees at public parks in the Kansas City area.

Last October, three Kansas City planting projects increased the tree diversity at Schlagle Library and Waterway Park in Kansas City, Kansas, and Windsor Park in Prairie Village. This fall, three more planting projects occurred at Wyandotte County Park in Bonner Springs, Stony Point Park, in Kansas City, and Porter Park, in Prairie Village. In total, 17 new species will be introduced at these sites.

“Heartland Tree Alliance is honored to be supported by a strong partnership with municipalities and government agencies like the Kansas Forest Service,” said Sarah Crowder, Heartland Tree Alliance program manager. “Tree diversity is an important message for residents to consider when choosing a tree species for planting this fall or next spring.”

The projects are designed to encourage the planting of different kinds of trees by showing the public examples of what the trees look like. Signage at each newly-planted tree provides the common and scientific names, with its mature height and spread.

“At Wyandotte County Park, the planting project will enhance the highly-used and unique disc golf course,” said Kim Bomberger, district community forester with the Kansas Forest Service. “It’s one of the only courses in the nation that gives players a fairway experience with trees.”

In addition to the tree planting events, the Kansas Forest Service is working with 12 cities in the Kansas City area to place nearly 50 signs on trees in parks and other public places that spread the message of the benefits of tree diversity.

Planting only one species of tree in a community can be disastrous when disease hits. "Tree diversity is so important in the Kansas City metro,” Crowder said. “It's estimated that we have around 6 million ash (trees) that have the potential to be lost to emerald ash borer. As we deal with this catastrophic loss, replanting is critical, and making sure we replant with many different kinds of tree species will put us on the right path for a healthy and sustainable urban forest."

Populations of the destructive emerald ash borer are exploding in a quarantine zone that currently includes six Kansas counties. According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the emerald ash borer was first detected in Wyandotte County, Kansas in 2012, and has now been found in Douglas, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth, and as of September 2016, Atchison County. The wood-boring insect attacks and kills all species of North American ash, and can be especially ruinous where a large percentage of the trees in towns and landscapes are ash only. Some ash trees that were alive last fall did not leaf out this spring.

While insects and disease can devastate a population of trees comprised of one species, severe storm events and drought can also be a threat. While rainfall has been more abundant this summer, lingering effects of past drought and climatic stressors are apparent to foresters. Some large trees have died in the last several years, leaving large voids in community canopies.

The Kansas Forest Service recommends choosing a wide array of tree species for planting in your home landscape and community. To learn which trees will work best in your area, visit the KFS website, www.KansasForests.org, and click on “Resources” then “Community Forestry.” The KFS soils map is also a resource to discover which species will do well in your area, and can be found at http://www.kansasforests.org/conservation_trees/soil.html. To see locations of where you can view tree specimens, see the KFS arboretum map at http://www.kansasforests.org/events/diversity.html.