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Research project promotes measuring sustainability in cities through trees

  • Project executed by CATIE seeks to measure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) within the concept of sustainable communities and cities

July 20, 2020.  CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) developed the research "Measuring sustainability in cities, valuing trees and their services", between September 2019 and June 2020, which had as its main objective to provide data to measure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), through the quantification of ecosystem services generated by different species of trees in specific areas of the city of Turrialba in Costa Rica.

"This project was born from the interest of visualizing or measuring progress towards the goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and is within the concept of sustainable communities and cities (SDG11), in particular the need to value the contribution of trees to cities. It consists of the quantification of key variables of the "urban forest" of Turrialba and the analysis of ecosystem services such as carbon storage, oxygen production, structural value, avoided runoff, among others, through the Tree model, developed by the United States Forest Service," said Laura Benegas, coordinator of CATIE's Resilient Watershed, Water Security and Soils Unit.

In addition, Benegas commented that the final result of the project is that this exercise will provide information that will help raise awareness among citizens and decision makers, mobilizing them towards actions that will lead to resilient and sustainable cities by including trees in urban ecosystems.

She also indicated that to obtain the first results of the project, students from the Environmental Secondary School of Pejibaye, the Municipality of Turrialba and the National Institute of Rural Development (Inder, its Spanish acronym) participated, where a sampling and analysis of tree species planted in an area of 12 acres located in the canton of Turrialba was carried out. This process was led by a group of CATIE graduates, from the master's degrees in watersheds, forests and development practices.

"In the 12 acres that were chosen for this study were found trees of different species such as Giant Poró, Parrot, Guarumo, Cas, Poró, Mango and Sotacaballo. Maintaining and implementing practices that increase urban trees in an orderly manner in the canton would translate into economic gains for the community of several million colones," Benegas added.

For example, this study determined that potentially, by storing carbon, these species generate an economic benefit of ¢523,079 per year (considering the small sampling area and taking as a reference the amount paid by the National Forestry Financing Fund).

Benegas added that she hopes that with this project the role of the trees in the planning that the municipality already has will be more valued, for example, encouraging the citizens who are making the effort to maintain these tree-lined areas. She expressed that thanks to this collected and shared data, the interest of several citizen groups in the environment and sustainability of Turrialba has been identified, who together with CATIE and the Municipality, will soon be launching the project "Observatory of water, resilience and sustainability of Turrialba",

On the other hand, this research is reported in a master's thesis and the elaboration of a scientific article is in process.


More information

Laura Benegas
Basin and Water Safety Unit
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Written by:

Priscilla Brenes Angulo
Communication´s Assistant
Information Technology and Communication
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