Fifteen more trees have made their way on to the University of Central Florida campus thanks to students, alumni and community partners getting their hands dirty in honor of Arbor Day.

Arbor Day is an annual holiday that aims to encourage the planting and care of trees. It was celebrated at UCF on April 19, when 35 volunteers planted seven Florida Elms, five Bald Cypress trees and three Red Maples, and went on a walking tour of UCF Arboretum’s natural lands.

Arbor Day has been celebrated at UCF for seven years and has led to more than 120 trees being planted on campus. There are more than 7,500 trees on campus – not including the natural lands – that help sequester carbon from the atmosphere and put out oxygen, among other natural benefits. For instance, a sample size of 5,320 trees at UCF were found to sequester 67 tons of carbon from the atmosphere and put out 161 tons of oxygen each year, according to a recent student study.

UCF’s urban forest canopy is valued at $4.32 million, taking into account its aesthetic appeal, the trees’ monetary value, and savings in carbon management, oxygen emissions and erosion control, according to John Guziejka, a biologist and urban forester with UCF Landscape & Natural Resources.

UCF’s extensive forest canopy is partly due to UCF Urban Forestry’s commitment to plant double the amount of trees that are removed due to construction, said Guziejka. More than 230 trees were planted at UCF in 2016 alone.

Plus, UCF’s care of trees has led the university to being recognized as a Tree Campus USA university for the seventh year in a row. Tree Campus USA honors colleges and universities that effectively manage their trees, connect with their community beyond campus borders to foster healthy urban forests, and engage their student population in service opportunities centered on forestry efforts.

UCF in 2011 became one of the first universities in Florida to earn the Tree Campus USA designation. The university utilizes a Campus Tree Advisory Committee, a Campus Tree Care Plan, institutes service learning projects centered on caring for the trees and dedicates annual expenditures for tree care.

Trees are an asset on campus and in the greater community because they provide shade, help reduce storm-weather run-off and provide nutrient filtration. Trees near water, in particular, also help take out excess nutrients and pollution from the water and help reduce erosion at the edge of the water, Guziejka said.

The UCF Arboretum utilizes volunteers year-round to help maintain the landscapes on campus. To get involved, see the Arboretum’s volunteer page.