Pitt’s Tree Goals
In 2018, the University’s Pittsburgh campus set a goal of increasing tree canopy 50% by 2030. Increased tree canopy will contribute to Pitt’s broader stewardship impact area, along with stormwater management, ecosystem support, and mental health benefits. Our Pittsburgh and Johnstown campuses are pursuing Tree Campus USA designations from the Arbor Day Foundation. New tree species planted are selected following the university-wide Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines. These guidelines strive to improve the health and wellbeing of our community by promoting biodiversity, integrating nature into our urban landscape, and creating synergy between the built and natural environment.
Pitt’s Tree Success
- The University of Pittsburgh’s main campus completed a tree inventory in 2019, documenting nearly 4,000 trees of diverse species and maturities that provided 29.95 acres of tree canopy coverage in 2019.
- Pitt Bradford has held a Tree Campus USA designation since 2015.
- Pitt Johnstown has been a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary since 2019, when it was the first university campus in Pennsylvania and the 8th nationally to earn this designation.
- Campus Tree Advisory Committees on both the Pittsburgh and Bradford campuses work toward maintaining the beauty of the campus landscape, while protecting the environment and fostering conservation efforts within the community via the long-term preservation and expansion of tree canopy.
Benefits of Urban Trees
- Trees protect biodiversity by providing shelter to migrating birds and pollinators. (Mendenhall et al. 2016).
- Increased tree canopy can help cities manage stormwater, flooding, and preventing waterway pollution. (EPA).
- By improving air quality, trees help to reduce rates of asthma, cardiac disease, and strokes. (Nowak, 2002).
- A single tree is capable of filtering up to 1/3 of fine particle pollutants within a 300 yard radius.(The Nature Conservancy).
- Trees help to reduce energy use and prevent heat-related deaths by cooling street temperatures by 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit. (Arbor Day Foundation).
- Trees can enhance views and provide areas of refuge in warmer months. (EPA).
- Trees can contribute to reduced obesity levels by increasing outdoor physical activity. (Ulmer et al. 2016).
- More trees means increased property values. (Wolf 2007).
- Trees help interrupt thought patterns associated with anxiety or depression. (Astell-Burt & Feng 2019).
- Creating healthy urban tree canopies can help address environmental injustices and racial disparities by improving local air quality and reduce urban heat island effects found to disproportionately impact BIPOC communities (1, 2,3, 4).
Pitt’s Tree Requirements
Maintaining existing trees and adding new trees is essential to reaching our goal of increasing tree canopy 50% by 2030. As part of the campus master plan, Pitt is exploring creative opportunities to increase tree canopy on- and off-campus, including on hillsides, rooftops, streets, and more. As part of our Institutional Master Plan, the University has committed to:
Protecting significant trees during renovations, infill development, and greenfield construction
- Tree roots, trunks, and canopies should be well outside of the limits of development.
- Tree protection fences should be utilized around the trees predicted root zone extents.
- Construction entrances should be planned to avoid tree stands
All new site designs should consider pervious or permeable pavements to promote extended root systems for trees
Landscape designs should locate shade trees away from paved surfaces to encourage maturation of tree heights and canopies
Partnering with Oakland community and groups to replant street trees
Monitoring health of significant trees on campus
- Utilize GIS data to identify trees susceptible to current and possible diseases, pests, and fungi.
- Propose treatments for trees that are in poor health
- Remove trees if diseases are highly contagious.
Planting new shade trees at a spacing that factors in mature canopy size. Trees will compete for root and canopy space if planted too close together.
Requiring designers to maintain a percentage of existing canopy and propose a percentage that aligns with the goal of increasing net tree canopy, while referencing the University’s Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines and the Institutional Master Plan.
Pitt has 9 green roofs of various types distributed across campus.
The benefit of green roofs include;
- Stormwater retention – Green roofs capture stormwater, reducing the frequency of combined sewer overflows, and helping prevent erosion and pollution caused by stormwater runoff (1).
- Reducing energy use – Green roofs provide insulation which creates energy savings inside the building due to less pressure on the HVAC system (1).
- Reducing the urban heat island effect – The urban heat island effect is when human activities and construction in cities, such as buildings, cause the surrounding area to be significantly warmer. The consequences of the urban heat island effect range from higher energy costs to human health concerns. Green roofs help reduce this effect by covering dark roofs with vegetation that helps absorb solar radiation better. (1 & 2)
- Providing habitat for pollinators – Green roofs can provide habitat for pollinators. Beginning in the 19th century, pollinator populations have decreased due to loss of habitat, loss of nesting locations, and increased use of pesticides. Pollinators are integral to the continuation of up to 95% of the Earth’s plants that need pollination to reproduce; as a result, installing green roofs with pollinator friendly plantings is a great way to ensure that pollinators thrive.
- Extends the life of the roof – Green roofs help extend the life of the roof underneath it due to protection from ultraviolet light and hot temperatures. This provides savings because less maintenance is required (3).
- Green Roofs: Benedum Hall and Falk School
- Pollinator Patios: Barco Law, Hillman Library, Nordenberg Hall, and Posvar Hall
- Partial Roof Plantings: Forbes Hall, Posvar Hall, Schenley Quad
- Type of green roof: 1 green roof + 1 planted patio
- Square footage: Square Feet: 15,237 square feet total (11,395 square feet + 3,842 square feet)
- Year installed: 2006
- Publicly accessible?
- Planted patio accessible at Benedum plaza level (up stairs from either O’Hara Street or Thackery)
- “This greenery has birthed a social gathering space for faculty, staff, and students” (Read more.)
- Type of green roof: Green Roof
- Square footage: 11,900 square feet Learn more.
- Year installed: 2010 Learn more.
- Publicly accessible? No, but Falk School can grant Pitt classes access for learning purposes.
Type of roof: Pollinator patio
Square footage: 2,667 square feet
Publicly accessible : Yes
Type of roof: Partial green roof / pollinator patio
Square footage: 690 square feet
Year installed: 2013
Publicly accessible: Yes, to dorm residents via Third Floor.
Type of roof: Pollinator patio & partial roof planting
Square footage: 2,772 square ft
Publicly accessible: No
Green Roof Type : Interior courtyard with partial planting (roof of service floor & parking garage)
Year Installed: 2018
Publicly Accessible: Yes, via Forbes Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and William Pitt Union Plaza.
Pollinators at Pitt
Can you imagine life without some of your favorite foods? Pollinators are integral to the growth of 75 to 95% of all the Earth’s plants that need pollination to reproduce. (Ollerton et al., 2011). Without pollinators, many foods including coffee and chocolate could be in jeopardy!
Animals responsible for pollination include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, bats, and birds. Beginning in the 19th century pollinator populations have decreased due to loss of habitat, loss of nesting locations, and increased use of pesticides (Nichols et al., 2019).
The University of Pittsburgh recognizes the importance of pollinators. As part of our Landscape & Ecology goals, we are not only working to protect existing pollinators, but to create spaces on campus where pollinator communities can grow and thrive. As part of the Pitt Sustainability Plan, we are committed increasing tree canopy 50% and replacing 15% of lawn area with indigenous and adapted plant species by 2030. Additionally, by 2024 our goal is to maintain 75% of landscaped areas in accordance with Northeast Organic Farming Association Standards, ensuring a healthy environment for plants and pollinators alike.
Working Toward a Pollinator-Friendly Campus
- Our efforts to create pollinator-friendly habitats on campus are led by the Pollinator Habitat Advisory Committee.
- Pitt is a certified Bee Campus USA !
- Pollinator-friendly habitats require the use of pesticide-free materials, food sources, water, native plant species, and specific materials for nesting. Our Campus Pollinator Habitat Plan sets strict guidelines for plant selection and landscaping techniques with these requirements in mind.
- Pitt’s Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines outline how the university maintains our campus’s landscape while upholding our commitment to stewardship.
- In 2019, Pitt students designed and built 7 bee houses on campus for native solitary bees, getting guidance from pollinator research conducted by Pitt Biology professor Dr. Tia-Lynn Ashman.
- The use of correct materials and proper sizing are crucial for pollinator health; our bee houses are constructed out of wood, filled with cardboard and bamboo tubes to provide nesting space, and then placed atop 6′ posts.
- Find Pitt’s bee houses and keep an eye out for informational signs that explain the importance of pollinators around the houses.
Pitt is home to 6 pollinator gardens
- Falk School Pollinator Garden: On Pitt’s upper campus, Falk’s garden boasts an expansive and unique design that helps our local pollinators thrive.
- Marlie Gardens: Located at the corner of O’Hara Street & Parkman, this garden was created as a visible project to bring more native vegetation to our campus.
- Posvar Pollinator Gardens
- Relearn Our Land Garden: Honors Aborigine American, Indigenous and Native cultural groups, peoples by showcasing plants showcasing plants that hold cultural significance for their medicinal or decorative properties. (Designed & planted by students in Spring 2022)
- Pollinator Garden on Schenley: Posvar’s first pollinator garden is in front of Posvar Hall on Schenley Drive; this visible garden provides shelter for pollinators with one of Pitt’s solitary bee houses.
- Pollinator Garden on Clemente: Home to a variety of different native plant species that have symbiotic relationships with the pollinators in Western Pennsylvania. (Student-designed in Spring 2020 & planted in June 2021)
- SRCC Pollinator Garden
The majority of the gardens’ landscape consists of native plant species including creeping phlox, aromatic aster, and red twig dogwood that attract various types of pollinators.
These pollinator gardens exemplify how sustainable initiatives can help improve our environment’s health and reduce resources used for maintenance.
Pitt’s 9 rain gardens detain and absorb excess rainwater, enabling it to naturally infiltrate into and nourish the soil, while helping mitigate Pittsburgh’s combined sewer overflow (CSO) issues.
- Bigelow Boulevard – features a series of rain gardens.
- Cathedral Rain Garden – is very visible, located on the Cathedral lawn between Heinz Chapel and the log cabin.
- Petersen Events Center Rain Garden – includes 4 rain gardens, 1 of which was the University’s first rain garden which came to fruition form ideas initiated by students; it now also hosts a solitary bee house.
- Salk Hall Annex Rain Gardens (2)
- Sutherland Hall Rain Garden
Pitt Edible Gardens Map
- Oakland Garden (by Plant to Plate) – provides fresh produce to local food pantries (including the Pitt Pantry), helping alleviate food insecurity in a sustainable manner.
- Darragh St. Berry Garden – also managed by the Plant to Plate student group.
Pitt Edible Gardens Map