Improving Tree Canopy for Climate Resilience

Christine Crissman

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay is sharing some good news. Mature trees can play an important role in controlling and limiting stormwater runoff, cooling urban areas and reducing harmful air pollution – all at the same time.

In this video essay, Nature Change hears from Christine Crissman, Executive Director of the Watershed Center located in Traverse City. She explains that the frequency of severe rain storms and the severity of those storms are increasing across Northwestern Lower Michigan. That means larger amounts of stormwater runoff which can damage the water quality in the Grand Traverse Bay. Crissman says that one effective response to reduce the negative impacts of stormwater is increasing tree canopy in both urban and smaller community settings.

Melinda Jones

Working with the Watershed Center, the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit, ReLeaf Michigan is helping to explore options for increasing tree canopy in five small communities throughout our region, including Bellaire, Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, Kingsley and Northport. Executive Director, Melinda Jones says that mature trees retain a lot of stormwater on the leaves and bark, reduce the erosive force of rain events, and help direct more of the stormwater into the ground.

Forester Lee Mueller is a consultant with the Davey Resource Group working with both ReLeaf and the Watershed Center helping to evaluate where tree planting will offer the greatest benefit. Using a priority assessment approach, his team develops maps to identify the areas where new trees will produce the greatest reduction in stormwater.

Lee Mueller

Crissman and the Watershed Center are hoping to use the lessons learned from working with ReLeaf and the Davey Resource Group to encourage and support increases in tree canopy in the Traverse City area as well. Recently, Watershed Center staff members began working with a task force of local officials and engaged citizens to identify ways local governments can encourage the addition of trees for stormwater reduction.

According to Traverse City Councilman Tim  Werner, large mature trees are important and very valuable community assets. Canopy trees help to reduce the amount of stormwater cities have to deal with through sewer systems and add to local property values.

Tim Werner

Trees play an important role in creating attractive neighborhoods and building community identity. Werner says, the work to replace and improve mature canopy trees should start right away and keep going through the decades.

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