Thursday, April 14, 2011

Parking lot’s Lilly Arbor Day Project - by Lauren Campbell.

The Lilly Arbor Day project took place in Indianapolis on March 25th. This is a project ten years in the making.

It called for contributions from IUPUI students, faculty, staff, Eli Lilly employees, and community volunteers. The aim of this project is to restore the flood plains that line the White River, with hope to one day restore the flood plains along the entire 100 miles of White River located in Marion County.
- Karen Salazar.

The purpose of this project on a small one-mile stretch of land in the middle of downtown Indianapolis is to experiment with certain species of trees, different types of soil, and different planting techniques. Through scientific data, the project hopes to compare what process and combination of these variables combined produces the greatest number of trees in the flood plain.

There were eight different plots along this one mile stretch; four different combination each duplicated. The duplications were used to account for random differences that could not be controlled; scientifically, it is to account for random error. When we were broken up into groups, I was assigned to Vince Hernly and Mark Sparks’ group. I went to the last plot of land and began measuring trees.

This plot of land consisted of soil comprised mostly of silt and of trees that were randomly placed. There were a few volunteers that began picking up trash and recyclables along the river and other volunteers began looking for marked trees to measure their growth in the past year. This is to study the benefits of native and invasive plants along riverbanks. These ecosystems contribute immensely to several environmental factors including water quality, ground water quality, infiltration systems, soil erosion, and animal habitats; understanding these ecosystems can help us make some significant decisions that will impact our immediate surroundings.

The ground vegetation near the White River is scarce. The construction of this site has increased the vegetative cover enormously, which improves water quality, through filtration of the water runoff and by providing a buffer zone during flooding. Planting trees in this area may develop large root networks to help slow water down during flooding, thus helping reduce the amount of collateral damages.

While measuring trees, I came across a few that had not survived the recent flooding. We hope our project can help rebuild a healthy ecosystem. The more vegetative cover and the larger the root network of the trees, the less soil and stream erosion, which will lead to more plants being able to prosper and to better water quality. The different types of soils used in this project also provide data regarding the best environment in which these trees can grow.

The acre-plot that we worked on was comprised of silt soil and the trees seemed to take well to it. Soils comprised more of silt and clay tend to retain water much better than soils comprised of mostly gravel or sand. The areas located north of our plot were comprised of mostly sand and gravel and the trees did not do so well.
There were also differences in the way in which the trees were planted on the different plots; some trees were planted with ‘open’ roots, meaning that there was not soil on them prior to planting, while others had ‘closed’ roots, meaning the roots were wrapped in soil prior to planting. The open root trees did pretty well and most seemed to grow during the year and the majority of them survived the recent flooding. It appears that this network of trees and their roots will be extremely beneficial to the White River and to the quality of water within it.

Water quality is a huge issue here in Indianapolis. This kind of large and extensive projects generates invaluable data. According to the 2010 Impaired Waters List, see the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) website, Indiana has over 2,600 impairments that make bodies of water in our state unsafe for drinking and recreation. This directly affects the people who live in the state of Indiana via the groundwater system. The White River is a gaining river, groundwater flowing south feeds into the White River and is then contaminated by many different things; one being parking lot run off pollutions, according to Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the HEC, is the third highest water pollutant in our state, mercury being number one due to all the coal manufacturing that the state does.

Photo by S. Donaldson
I was surprised to see a parking lot runoff ditch that had been constructed in the middle of this project. Ironic how a ten year project dedicated to increasing water quality in Marion County has been overridden by the construction of a parking lot. This is why we need to understand the psychological process needed to change the way people think about our environment while we collect data and learn about what we can do. We need to start applying what we are learning and learn as we apply. Putting one more parking lot in the city to cause more problems for a project trying to reduce the very pollution that has been killing our community makes no sense, I hope we fix our public transit system and take one parking lot away and convert it into a urban farming lot to help bring fresh produce to the hungry.  

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