LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ / UK Public Relations) – In the summer of 2020, Kenton Sena, a professor at Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, and his team of undergraduate research assistants studied trees natives in Lexington, which were planted as part of the city’s Reforest the Bluegrass program. The objective of the project was to assess whether the trees were successfully establishing and growing to form a canopy.
In the process, the group also found that invasive plants, such as Amur honeysuckle and callused pear, were abundant in the underlying vegetation layer of urban forests. These discoveries marked the start of what could become a productive new partnership between the Urban Forestry Department of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and the Forestry Club of the College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment. .
On October 16, the Forestry Club helped remove invasive plants from Masterson Station Park in Lexington during UK CAFE Tree Week. The program was the first of a multi-event partnership between LFUCG, UK CAFE and Lewis Honors College to improve the city’s urban areas.
“I think our working day went very well and was very successful,” said Sena, who received her Masters and PhD from CAFE’s Forestry and Natural Resources Department. “I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the projects that can come out of a UK partnership with LFUCG Urban Forestry. I think whatever comes of it will be great for the forests of Lexington. “
The partnership plans to establish at least four annual collaborative programs.
The first project begins in January with another invasive species removal activity. An annual program will begin with an invasive species removal project in early spring, followed by the traditional Reforest Bluegrass in April, which focuses on planting native trees in the area. Every year since 1999, Reforest the Bluegrass has planted trees throughout Lexington, resulting in the reforestation of more than 20 sites around the city by 2020. In early fall, another species elimination project invasive will occur.
In late fall, the club will focus on a “Nursery Digging and Subplanting Day,” which will focus on excavating trees and shrubs in an LFUCG nursery and planting them in. some Reforest the Bluegrass sites around town.
“Sub-planting is the key to this type of work,” Sena said. “If you remove invasive plants but don’t plant anything in their place, invasive species are likely to grow back. Current field research suggests that planting native undergrowth trees and shrubs after removing invasive plants helps improve the diversity of native species at the site and reduces the likelihood of invasive species regrowing.
From learning different trades and using unique tools to networking with community members, students benefit from this type of project.
In collaboration, students can build their professional network, help solve a community problem, and practice their skills in a real context. Undergraduates participating in it can interact with graduate students, community members active in local environmental service work, local government employees, university professors, and professional arborists.
“Unfortunately, COVID has prevented us from participating in many events over the past year and a half,” said Nate Hooven, chairman of the Graduate Students’ Association at the UK Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. “However, we are delighted to be working with LFUCG in the future as these events provide opportunities to be active in the Lexington community and gain hands-on experience in forest and invasive species management.”
Senna said that while it creates a rich space to meet new people, learn about the community and share ideas, it also allows students to help solve a real community problem.
“It will take a concerted community effort to manage our forests against invasive species,” he said. “Students get hands-on experience in the practice of plant identification, using tools like loppers and hand saws to cut invasive species, and dragging and stacking brushwood. These programs are an excellent experiential complement to students’ classroom educational experiences.