New Citizen Science Project to Measure Tree Growth

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If you have a red maple (Acer rubrum) in your yard, and a few minutes of free time per year we would like your help in monitoring tree growth for A Tree’s Life, a citizen-science project.

The objectives of the project are to understand how climate and urbanization affect tree growth and health, and thus ecological services like carbon sequestration and air and water filtration. Despite the importance of mature trees, we do not know much about the effects of warming on tree growth and services. This is largely due to the difficulties in experimenting with mature trees; you cannot move them to warm spots or warm them with heaters like you can with small plants.

Urban areas are warmer and often have higher CO2 concentrations than rural areas. This means urban trees may grow faster or slower than rural trees, but it also means we can use urban warming to predict changes that might arise from global warming. Cities may be sentinels that predict how plants and animals respond to climate change.

A dendrometer wrapped around a tree

Dendrometer used in A Tree’s Life on a red maple. Photo: M. Just

Our goal is to measure tree growth in urban, suburban, and rural areas with the help of volunteer citizen scientists. We are looking for volunteers to measure the growth of red maples in their own yards. We will provide the citizen scientists with a dendrometer, which is a tool that measures tree trunk growth without injuring the tree (it will need to remain on the tree for at least a year, hopefully longer). We will ask citizen scientists to report tree growth and a few other details about their tree periodically.

Although this seems very simple, it provides valuable data to determine how different altitudes, latitudes, and urban conditions affect tree growth and carbon sequestration. Ultimately, we plan to have citizens measuring thousands of trees across the country.

If you are interested, please fill out our Participant Sign-up Form or contact the A Tree’s Life team a-trees-life@ncsu.edu