The Wisconsin Native Tree Collection at Marquette University reached an important milestone with the planting of a sugar maple tree in honor of Rev. Harold C. Bradley, S.J., on Oct. 15.
A key proponent of the Native Tree Collection, Fr. Bradley advocated for campus beatification and sustainability until his death last year at age 84.
A collaboration between the University and Students for an Environmentally Active Campus, the Native Tree Collection is a program to plant 26 native species across the Marquette campus. The project includes tree species such as White Ashes, American Beeches, and Silver Maples.
Besides improving the overall aesthetic quality of the campus, the Project also provides a place for native species to thrive. Often facing competition from introduced species and foreign pests in the wild, Wisconsin’s native species face significant hurdles in the wild.
However, in the more controlled setting of the university campus, the planted native species grow in a more favorable environment.
Additionally, as the trees are from Wisconsin, they are heartier and require less water to grow. Indeed, the species planted on campus remain important to Wisconsin. As the official tree of Wisconsin, the sugar maple symbolizes the ecological diversity of Wisconsin along with providing the sap used in making maple syrup.
The ash species provides a glimpse into why the Native Tree Collection is necessary. The two types of ash trees in the project, white and grey, remain threatened by the Emerald Ash Borer.
The Borer, original from Eastern Asia, kills 100 percent of trees it is able to infest. Estimates by the Wisconsin DNR state that ash trees represent about seven percent of all trees in Wisconsin and 20 percent of all trees in urban areas.
Since the borer’s arrival to Wisconsin in 2008, the DNR has taken steps to stop, or at least slow, the spread of the pest. Foreign and introduced species such as the Ash Borer show the significance of the University’s Native Tree Collection and its efforts to preserve local biodiversity. Acting as a repository for local species, the Native Tree Collection will allow its specimens to reach maturation unfettered by invasive species.
Indeed, invasive species often have adverse effects on the economy, health, and recreational offerings of Wisconsin. Zebra Mussels contribute to higher utility costs, they must be routinely removed from all Lake Michigan intake pipes.
The fishing industry is suffering from a decline in the number sports fish due to invasive species, like the round gobi, competing for limited resources. Even Wisconsin’s forests are suffering from invasive species; buckthorn is choking off native trees.
Projects like the Native Tree Collection ensure that viable specimens of local species will continue to exist instead of vanishing from their traditional ranges.
Although invasive species continue to hurt the ecosystem of Wisconsin, important steps are being taken to insure further species do not enter the ecosystem. Recently, the Army Corps of Engineers after pressure from environmental groups and the EPA decided to construct an electric barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to stop the spread of Asian Carp. The Asian Carp, traveling from the Mississippi into the Great Lakes through the Chicago Canal, would have caused havoc on the Great Lakes ecosystem, displacing most native fish species.
Laws requiring the local cutting and burning of wood have also been enacted by the DNR in order to stop the spread of tree diseases and pests such as the Ash Borer. By taking preventive action, the DNR and other environmental agencies hope to preempt any further degradation of the local ecosystem.
Having a healthy local and statewide ecosystem helps to improve the Marquette community as well as Wisconsin’s overall quality of life. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, “Ecological health depends on maintaining a diversity of life forms. Diversity indicates a system’s resilience or its ability to adapt and cope with change.”
The Native Tree Collection fulfills this exact role by providing a safe, well-managed environment for 26 key native species. As a Jesuit Catholic school, Marquette must remain committed to help the environment; helping the local ecosystem is a great way to do so.
The Native Tree Collection shows Marquette’s willingness to support both the university and local community through acts of environmental activism, creating a better and more sustainable environment for both future students of Marquette and future residents of Wisconsin.
by Matt Waldoch