TWU researchers help City of Burnaby protect Central Park from climate change effects

Trinity Western University researchers propose ways to help Central Park (Burnaby, BC) remain resilient in the face of expected climate changes, protecting this natural space for future generations, in a study commissioned by the City of Burnaby.


Central Park is a popular and expansive 86.4-hectare “magnificent coastal rainforest” located in Burnaby, minutes from the Metropolis at Metrotown shopping centre (Burnaby.ca). Climate change could threaten Central Park and its rich natural beauty.

TWU researchers, funded by the City of Burnaby, discover how climate is negatively affecting local tree health, and recommend ways to help Central Park remain resilient – protecting this valuable public space.

Five TWU researchers, led by lead research assistant Vanessa Jones (BSc Biology, 2019) and guided by four TWU faculty, spend many hours collecting data on the trees and other aspects of ecosystem health in Central Park. Together, the team collect detailed health information for over 4000 trees and shrubs throughout the park.

​“Central Park is very well-loved, and a lot of its users have been coming there their whole lives. Hearing how much the forest meant to people made the project feel important and applicable,” says Jones.

She continues, “My hope is that this project helps municipalities like Burnaby realize that the climate is changing now, and urban forests are already displaying the effects of drought. I hope that with proactive planning and management by municipalities, urban greenspaces will remain resilient to the changing climate.”

In their study, TWU researchers note that climate projections for Burnaby have shown that temperatures in the area will continue to increase, resulting in hotter, drier summers and milder, wetter winters (“Climate Change Projections for Metro Vancouver,” Metro Vancouver, 2016). The predicted rise in temperature will significantly impact local plant growth, particularly for plants that are less drought-resilient.

In this study, researchers discover symptoms of tree decline in 6% of cedars and 19% of hemlocks, with an additional 31% of the hemlock population already dead. To mitigate against this, TWU researchers recommend continuing to restore areas of the park by planting drought-tolerant native plants, focusing on species that are already present in the park.

“There are a lot of different factors that influence tree health, for example, disease, invasive plants, or soil compaction,” Jones explains, “However, all of these problems are exacerbated by the climate problem. High summer temperatures and low summer and spring precipitation, on top of the other factors that urban trees face, could have drastic impacts on the Central Park population."

“There are actions that can be done to combat this – namely, restoring the forest with native plant species that are drought tolerant,” says Jones.

Ways to promote the vitality of Central Park, as proposed by TWU researchers, include planting mostly deciduous trees, as they seem more resilient in the face of the projected climate changes. As well, researchers recommend planting young Douglas firs, a coniferous species that is relatively drought tolerant.

Other key recommendations include monitoring the health of trees, soil moisture, continued tracking of climatic changes and their impacts, in order to protect Central Park and preserve its role as a cherished place in Burnaby.

Central Park has over 100 years of history. Founded in 1891 and officially opened by Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales during their visit in 1986, Central Park boasts an integrated playground that is fun and accessible for children of all ages and abilities, among other family-friendly facilities. The park is also home to multiple walking and hiking trails; the second phase of the Central Park Perimeter Trail was recently completed in 2019.

TWU's Central Park Climate Change Resilience Research project was led by Vanessa Jones (BSc Biology, 2019) and facilitated by four Trinity Western student researchers, Delia Anderson, Virginia Oeggerli, Jessica Brouwer and Natalie Cook. Dr. David Clements, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at Trinity Western University, was the principle investigator. Three other TWU faculty helped guide the project: Dr. Geraldine Jordan, Dr. Paul Brown and David Jordan.

Key recommendations for a climate resilient forest:

  • Steward the conifers - weekly watering of cedars, hemlocks and young douglas firs located along forest edges and walking trails, during spring and summer months
  • Monitor and remove invasive plants, fungal infections, cankers, animal damage and gall infection
  • Maintain protective buffer zone of 3 meters around trees - these areas should not be mowed or disturbed, to prevent root exposure and damage from humans and machinery
  • Conserve soil moisture - one effective way is by spreading woodchips over soil surface
  • Maintain soil quality and reduce soil compaction - close off unsanctioned trails to foot traffic and bicyclists
  • Undertake restoration activities in strategic areas - plant native understory vegetation, such as shrubs and ferns
     

See also: Burnaby Now featured this story on Jul 15, 2020.

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About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to find and fulfill their purpose in life. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vibrant faith community devoted to supporting godly leaders seeking to have a transformational impact on culture.

For media inquiries, please contact media@twu.ca.

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