The University of Central Florida has received a Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation for the fourth year in a row.

The recognition demonstrates UCF’s commitment to tree plantings and maintenance on campus, said Alaina Bernard, associate director for UCF Landscapes and Natural Resources.

“This designation showcases the tremendous efforts of our staff in making UCF beautiful and environmentally friendly, while also creating a sense of community through a common theme of urban forestry management,” said Bernard.

In order for universities to receive this title they need to meet five standards: establishing a tree-advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for a campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance, and a student service-learning project.

Since receiving their first recognition in 2011, UCF’s Department of Landscape and Natural Resource implemented a tree-care plan and a tree team with its Urban Forestry Management. Ray Jarrett, natural resources coordinator, manages the tree team that includes two certified arborists, a plant pathologist, and a chainsaw specialist who is educated on proper pruning methods to care for more than 7,000 trees on campus.

“UCF has a diverse tree canopy, which provides both an aesthetic and environmental value,” said Jarrett who received his biology degree from UCF in 1998. UCF’s tree canopy makes up about 59 percent of the total campus area, and Jarrett’s team has been working toward a more diverse tree canopy with native trees and undergrowth level of smaller trees and plants. Native plants within the tree canopy create a favorable environment and reduce irrigation needs.

“Trees provide many ecosystem services, from erosion control to heat reduction,” said Bernard. By planting and maintaining trees on universities, the campus community can breathe cleaner air by reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. UFM has said to have cut down on carbon emissions from the canopy, which were estimated to be 4,955 metric tons, which is equivalent to 555,498 gallons of gasoline, or 972 passenger cars annually.

Trees can also significantly reduce the amount of energy the campus and community need to generate.  The natural resources office has completed 62 urban ecology research projects with 163 students since 2008, and have increased the number of research projects and classes that use natural lands on campus.

An annual Arbor Day event is held every year to engage the students and afford them an opportunity to give back to the community. For more information about the Tree Campus USA program, click here. For more information about UCF’s Department of Landscape and Natural Resource, click here.