On the Expedition
Cities are made up of buildings and streets – but between and among human structures are thousands of trees that make up the urban forest. Urban forests are more than pretty: they mitigate climate change, improve psychological health, filter pollution, and increase oxygen levels. Earthwatch is collaborating with Urban Ecos and the San Francisco Urban Forest Map to collect data to study and protect the 700,000 trees that make up the city’s critically-important urban forest.
Earthwatch is collaborating with Urban Ecos and the San Francisco Urban Forest Map to conduct hands-on research into the health and impacts of urban trees. As a volunteer, you will be trained in observation techniques for identifying species, measuring and observing individual tree samples, and uploading data via mobile apps. During the course of the day you’ll work in groups, “exploring” San Francisco’s urban forest and collecting data about individual trees’ health, growth patterns, and impact on buildings and streets. With your participation, we will develop a growing database of information needed to understand how trees positively impact urban areas, and what trees need to survive and thrive in stressful environments.
The impact of urban forests on biodiversity and the environment is significant – and it is increasing rapidly around the world. Today, for example, more than 80% of the US population lives in urban areas, and this number continues to rise. As cities grow, urban green space declines, leading to negative impacts on environmental quality and human wellbeing. Urban forests offer a wide range of benefits to the general environment and to human urban dwellers; they provide:
- Habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife, which helps to support planetary biodiversity
- Protection from the extreme impacts of climate change, including temperature modification and oxygen production
- Filtering for rainwater and groundwater, both through surrounding soils and through transpiration
- Carbon storage, which reduces the quantity of harmful greenhouse gasses
- Psychological respite from the stresses of urban living
- Enhancement of property values
While urban trees offer great benefits, they can also cause problems. Roots undermine sidewalks, leaves create slippery hazards, and branches fall on power lines. Their impact on the public makes trees an integral and active part of urban planning for most if not all cities and municipalities. Little research has been conducted on urban forests compared to typical forests, making Earthwatch’s new Urban Forest Program an exciting and significant development.
Meals and Accommodations
Participants will be provided a healthy sandwich lunch and snacks while in the field. Exploring San Francisco’s Urban Forest is a one-day expedition, so no accommodation is required.
About the Research Area
Your Expedition will take place in San Francisco, California, the most important cultural center in Northern California. Named for Saint Francis of Assisi, the city grew to significance as a result of the 1849 Gold Rush. Since that time, it has become one of America’s top destinations, offering a wide range of cultural, historical, academic, and recreational opportunities. Among the city’s most important features are San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the famous cable cars.
Visitors to San Francisco come to the area for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy the proximity to the vineyards of Sonoma and Napa Valley, two of the most important wine-making regions of the world. Others are interested in its museums, restaurants, and night life. The area is also rich in recreational opportunities, including hiking, kayaking, and nearby skiing. San Francisco is well known for its significance as a center for social and cultural change during the 1960’s, and the city has preserved many of the landmarks of that period, including sites in Haight Ashbury.