Pennsylvania universities plant forest buffers to clean water from campuses to the Chesapeake Bay


More than 4 acres along streams running through the campuses of Bucknell University in Lewisburg and Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove have been planted with forest buffers to slow rainwater runoff.

The forest buffers will help trap nutrients and sediment before they flow into the streams, benefiting water quality and wildlife.

During the recent Susquehanna River Symposium at Bucknell University, volunteers planted 100 trees in 100 minutes along Smoketown Road to help improve water quality of Miller Run, which flows to the Susquehanna River and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay.

Milton Newberry III, sustainable technology director, noted, “These plantings will improve the chances for stormwater management for the campus as well as beautifying campus and increasing the biodiversity of plants here with the inundation of both trees and shrubs in this area.”

The Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, coordinated by Chesapeake Bay Foundation, supplied the native trees and shrubs as well as tree shelters, and the university arranged for students and faculty to help.

At Susquehanna University, 3 acres along West Sassafras and Liberty Alley that was maintained as open lawn for years is getting a chance to recover with hundreds of trees and plugs in the ground and seeding this fall.

“It also offers an opportunity for students to participate in every step of the restoration process from planning to implementation and maintenance.” said Matt Wilson, director of the Freshwater Research Institute. “This conversion to a wet meadow and riparian buffer will improve water infiltration and reduce flow rates, helping to mitigate flooding potential within the borough. The project has been a great learning and teaching experience with SU students.”

Streamside tree plantings, often referred to as forest buffers, are rows of trees, shrubs and grasses planted along waterways to slow rainwater runoff as it approaches the streams, stabilize streambanks and provide food for in-stream insects.

“In the future, we hope these plantings will help source a different method of tree planting called ‘live stakes.’ Live stakes are branches from wetland tree and shrub species with their branches removed that can be inserted directly into soft soil to grow an entirely new tree or shrub,” said Adrienne Gemberling, senior project manager with the Chesapeake Conservancy, which assisted the universities with the projects. “Live staking allows Chesapeake Conservancy and partners to plant more shrubs and trees at a much lower cost while leveraging local volunteer capacity.”

Chesapeake Conservancy has convened a very strong partnership group known as the Live Stake Cooperative that helps support the live stake planting technique. The LSC partners include Chesapeake Conservancy, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Merrill W. Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy, Susquehanna University and Bucknell University.

Contact Marcus Schneck at mschneck@pennlive.com.



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