The University of New Mexico campus is home to over 5,000 trees located in the heart of Albuquerque. There are a wide variety of trees ranging in size and age, some saplings and some that are many decades old. Caring for the tree environment on campus is a full-time job, requiring a team of arborists with the expertise to care for a wide variety of species in this unique urban high desert environment.
According to the 2007 Interior West Community Tree Guide, a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) publication, urban trees live about 40 years and have a 55 percent survival rate. The trees at UNM have a much higher life span and survival rate than expected primarily due to the stewardship of the Physical Plant Department (PPD) arborists.
One of the first steps needed to maintain a thriving tree canopy is to know what kinds of trees you have, their location and maintenance schedule, size and condition of each tree, and their life span. PPD received a grant from the New Mexico State Forestry Department to do just that: map the location of each campus tree using aerial photo software called Davey TreeKeeper, a tree management program. This software allows the UNM arborists to archive all pertinent information regarding each tree, as well as calculate the benefit each tree contributes to the environment, reduction of UNM’s carbon footprint, and energy savings they provide.
According to the recent data collected, the most common tree on campus is a Honey Locust tree taking up 8.15 percent (354 trees) of the tree population on Main Campus. The largest tree is a Siberian Elm tree, measuring 80 feet tall, with a canopy spread of over 82 by 70 feet, and a truck measuring 48 inches in diameter.
The oldest trees on campus are the Ponderosa Pines located in Tight Grove on University and Central. It is believed that some of these trees are over 100 years old, and were planted after the construction of Hodgin Hall, and may also be some of the earliest Arbor Day plantings to occur on campus.
The arborists at UNM spend their time caring for the tree environment, including the planting of new trees which takes planning and care. It is important to maintain the vibrant tree environment for decades to come. During the week of Earth Day and Arbor Day, 15 trees were planted across the campus to plan for the future of UNM’s trees. “The University of New Mexico is an oasis for wildlife, people, and learning, and our trees play a big part in that,” says Dr. Gary Smith, associate director for PPD Environmental Services and Maintenance and Operations.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb