BROOKINGS – When South Dakota State University’s Tanner Aiken and John Ball led the planting of an Exclamation London Planetree in front of the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center in April, the university was recognized for its 10th year as a Tree Campus USA institution.
The university was also notified that Bee City USA renewed its certification following a rigorous renewal application process. South Dakota State’s certification was up for renewal in 2020.
The Tree Campus USA program, supported by the Arbor Day Foundation, recognizes colleges and universities across America for following these core standards:
• Tree advisory committee;
• Campus tree care plan;
• Campus tree program with annual expenditures;
• Arbor Day observance; and
• Student service-learning projects.
In addition to those efforts, SDSU maintains a digital GPS tree database that is invaluable for the collection of diversity data.
“We are dedicated to planting and maintaining a diverse campus canopy when it comes to species and general selection for trees. This helps to limit our liability for future invasive pests and diseases that infest or infect one genus. Emerald ash borer and Dutch elm disease are strong examples in the value of tree diversity,” said Aiken, horticulturist and project manager with SDSU Facilities and Services. “The goal is to have no more than 5 percent of the total number of trees on campus be maples, for example, regardless of which species of maple – e.g., red, silver or sugar – to reduce the visual and economic impact of the loss to an exotic pest.
“SDSU replaces trees by looking at canopy area replacement of trees that are removed for construction projects, disease or storm damage,” he continued. “We estimate the growth of specimens for a few years and then figure that number back to the amount of smaller, nursery trees needed to replace the canopy lost. This helps us to gain back our lost canopy on a predictable time scale. As part of that plan, we also plant species with sensitivity to benefits provided to various insects, including pollinating insects.”
Taking into consideration pollinating insects is one factor that allowed Bee City USA to approve the recertification application early.
Aiken and Ball, a professor and SDSU Extension forestry specialist, dedicated April’s planting to Dave Graper, a professor in the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science and a SDSU Extension horticulture specialist. He is retiring after 29 years of service at SDSU. Facilities and Services and the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science have a history of collaboration determining tree species that thrive in the many campus locations.
“Students in our horticulture and landscape courses have planted many of the trees on campus and pruned these and others as part of their laboratory assignments,” Ball said. “This work has given them practical experience as well as another connection to SDSU. I have had former students come to campus for games or other events check on the trees they worked on 10 to 20 years ago.”
South Dakota State, which started Arbor Day Park April 29, 1960, has planted approximately 700 trees on campus in 10 years. The university has benefited from 3,500 volunteer hours from students, Master Gardeners and community members.
Bee City USA is an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the largest pollinator protection organization in the world. The Bee Campus USA certification program galvanizes campuses and communities to sustain pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat, rich in a variety of native plants and free to nearly free of pesticides. Imperiled pollinators like wild bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, bats, hummingbirds and others are responsible for the reproduction of nearly 90 percent of the world’s wild flowering plant species and one in every three bites of food humans consume.