Climate-Ready Trees

Climate-Ready Trees for Albuquerque

New Mexico Privet. Photo: Flikr/J.N.Stuart

Trees are critical in our urban environment to mitigate some of the effects of climate change; they sequester carbon, provide cooling shade, and support life for all animals, including us. And on top of all that, trees are beautiful. But now they need our serious attention. Our tallest trees are referred to as our canopy. Along the bosque, the canopy tree is the Cottonwood and throughout the rest of Albuquerque, our canopy tree is the Siberian Elm. These canopy trees are decreasing due to drought, aging, and disease and now have many dead limbs. It is estimated that 30% of the canopy will be gone in the next ten years, and we are not planting enough trees to meet that decline. Even many of our “native” trees will not survive with climate change. Albuquerque has not had a tree planting campaign since the Siberian Elms were planted nearly 100 years ago.

ClimateReadyTrees: Tree Species Selection Guidelines for the Albuquerque Metro Area was published in 2020 by The Nature Conservancy. Drawing on local and international experts, the publication is informative and well written. The third chapter gives examples of seven types of planting environments one might find in the mid Rio Grande and suggestions on how to plant various species in those conditions. Appendix A lists all the species thought to be able to withstand both the heat and spotty rainfall predicted over the next 100 years. So how do we get to work?

Our mayor has put forward a community-wide goal of planting 100,000 trees in the next ten years. A coalition has formed called Let’s Plant ABQ and their website has an overview of projects.

Tree New Mexico, as part of their ABQ Neighborwoods program, is currently working with five neighborhoods to find potential places to plant 100 trees this fall. Families agreeing to care for these street trees and small (1 1/2″) trees will each receive an additional smaller tree. If a family agrees to care for a streetscape tree, the Water Utility Authority will give some credit on their water bill. Neighborhoods who wish to get involved need to contact their City Counselor or Tree NM. Most of the trees being distributed are Climate-Ready Trees.

Interfaith Power and Light has a campaign called Forest of Bliss, started by ABQ Sikhs and including other faith communities. Their aim is to plant 550 trees across New Mexico, to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of its founder, Guru Nanak.

Albuquerque Parks and Rec employs the city forester and has an Urban Forestry program which plants trees in city parks. Citizens and organizations can also sponsor Tribute trees to honor an event or person; the city commits to their installation, watering, and care. These are larger 2 -3″ caliper trees and require heavy equipment to transfer them. Parks and Rec also has a tree stewards program which is a ten week training to learn how to monitor tree health and prune young trees.

Article from the work of The Nature Conservancy, Parks and Rec, Sue Brown, Tree NM, Ken Gingerich, Debby Scott, and others