Worcester's Urban Forest

View of Brighton Street
Abstract: 
Rebuilding Worcester's urban forest with the community after an Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) infestation.
Project Status: 
Ongoing
Location: 
Worcester, MA
Partner(s): 
Clark University
City of Worcester Massachusetts
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub
U.S. Forest Service
Worcester Tree Initiative

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A changing climate poses risks for urban forests. Some forest pests may benefit from warmer temperatures, leading to tree damage and mortality. Heavy rain events and some types of storms may also increase in the coming decades, which can increase stormwater runoff, flooding, and tree breakage. Adaptation actions, such as tree species diversification and improved stormwater management can help reduce these risks.

The Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) is an invasive tree pest that started killing trees in Worcester in 2008. 80% of planted trees in Worcester at this time were maples, which is the preferred host for the beetle. This left many streets vulnerable when the pest appeared. The maple trees were severely damaged by the ALB infestation, and the dead and dying trees were removed.  When considering how to replant the area, there was an effort to diversify both street trees and trees on private property. Having a variety of species will help shield Worcester’s urban forest against future potential threats. 



Healthy trees and forests provide communities with many climate-related benefits. With active planning, management, and care, an urban forest can improve community resilience to heavy rain. Since so many trees had been removed due to the ALB infestation, the City of Worcester installed several stormwater tree pits at strategic points within the city in order to reduce the increased amount of stormwater entering the city's storm drains. Tree removal also reduced the loss of green, cooling spaces. Trees provide shade and can reduce temperatures related to the heat island effect. A replanting program organized by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Worcester Tree Initiative, and other partners has been focused on reforesting Worcester’s canopy. In 2014, approximately 30,000 trees were replanted.  

 

Among the many potential impacts of climate change, changes in insect and disease populations rise to the top as the most immediate and possibly significant impact on our forests. This is because of the destructive potential of forest pests and the direct link between climate and pest survival or spread. In particular, climate influences: frequency and intensity of outbreaks; spatial patterns, size, and geographical range of outbreaks; life cycles, range shifts, range expansions or contractions."  

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