An Analysis of the Austrian Pines on the UW Campus

Table of Contents


The last tree inventory study at the University of Waterloo was finished in October of 1972. It is essential to understand that the University of Waterloo campus has changed drastically since then. These changes can be seen through the landscape, as well as the succession of trees and vegetation. A substantial amount of the university's infrastructure has been updated and improved, and in turn, vegetation (especially trees) has been removed to facilitate the new evolving infrastructure. Many trees have died, or have been replaced due to varying diseases, or unfavorable climatic conditions.

Although it was recommended by the Department of Plant Operations in their Turf Grass Maintenance Action Plan that the university "commission a landscape Master plan" (U of W, 1994), we feel that it is crucial, to first have an up-to-date tree inventory of the current vegetative communities present on the Waterloo campus. Considering the data compiled in the previous ERS 285 Preliminary Tree Inventory completed in 1994, it is clear that in their sample area, the Austrian Pines make up the overwhelming majority of the trees. They are more than three-and-a-half times as numerous as the next most predominant species (Austrian pine account for 43.6% of the total number of trees).

Due to the Austrian pines' extensive presence on the campus ecosystem, it contributes greatly to the overall sustainability of the campus. This contribution can be seen through the Austrian pines' values and characteristics (outlined later in the section on the Value of Trees, and in the Sustainability section). Many of the Austrian pines are affected by a fungal disease referred to as Diplodia blight. This disease causes the deterioration of the Austrian pines' needles, and inevitably, the death of the entire tree. Due to it's significance, this tree warrants an individual in-depth inventory, as well as prevalent background research on the disease and the Austrian pine.


The primary objective of this study is to make recommendations to improve the sustainability of the University of Waterloo campus by focusing on one aspect of the ecosystem which needs to be modified to achieve this goal. It is expected that if other efforts are made to improve sustainability at the University, eventually the campus as a whole can become a highly diversified system. The aspect that we are focusing on, the Austrian pine species, is clearly not sustainable, as many of them are dying or have already died from the Diplodia blight disease.

3.0 System Study

"A system is simply a set of objects and the relationship between them".(Briggs, 1993) Practically anything, at any scale can be a system. "Environmental systems are dynamic and intimately interrelated", thus making them difficult to manage.(Briggs, 1993)

3.1 System Boundary

The study area includes all of the land encompassed by the UW Ring Road. This portion of the University is approximately 239 acres and represents approximately 27 per cent of the University-owned property which is the most travelled. The study boundary includes all of the Austrian pines located within this area. The herbaceous plants, shrubs, other tree species, animals, buildings, and other man-made structures are components within the system boundary, but are not part of this study.

3.2 System Description

All systems are composed of a variety of different actor groups. Each actor group has a different level of influence or interaction within the system. Within our system boundary, the primary actor group that is accountable for the system is the Department of Plant Operations. Plant Operations personnel have the highest level of interaction and the greatest amount of control regarding decisions within this system.

The secondary actor group which interacts within the system, but has a limited amount of influence, includes all those individuals using the campus area within the system boundary.

The third group of actors are the tertiary actor groups. The tertiary actor groups are the campus wildlife, the general public, as well as potential students, financiers, and employees that interact both directly and indirectly with the system. The campus wildlife uses the system directly for essential living requirements including habitat and nourishment. In general the aesthetics of the campus are instrumental to those individuals and groups contemplating their investment of time and money in the University. Universities are often perceived as pristine environments by the public, which is influential in the selection of vegetation that is aesthetically pleasing.

3.3 System Design

3.4 System Hierarchy

The earth is composed of many systems that are interconnected to form the biosphere which is the layer on earth, only a few kilometres thick, that is capable of supporting life. The system our report is concerned with is the University of Waterloo Campus terrestrial ecosystem. Within the University ecosystem we have focused on the area inside the boundaries of the Ring Road. This representative portion of the campus has in it, many subsystems; Our report is only concerned with the biotic components which include flora and fauna. Flora on campus consists of ground cover, flowers, shrubs, and trees. The scope of the recomendations will focus solely on possible coniferous tree replacements, no other possible options (biotic or abiotic are being considered for this paper). We will be assessing one component of the tree subsystem. This component is the Austrian pine species which will be assessed in terms of its location, quantity, and health.


4.1 The Value of Trees

Trees outstrip most people in the extent and depth of their work for the public good. Twenty-four hours a day through the spinning cycle of the year, they're on the job creating an environmental benefit to our physical and mental health. They cool the air, act as wind buffers, and intercept the rain. Pollution cleanup by trees occurs silently and without political debate. They cut fuel bills and increase property values. Their beauty rivals that of an art gallery and stress reduction and energy recharge are available at a glance.

The US forest service estimates that the value of a home is pushed up between 7 and 20 per cent by the presence of trees (Ebenreck, 1989). The value of trees is important in terms of insulation by providing shade in the summer, and buffering the wind in the winter.

What are the values of urban trees? The answer, it appears, only begins with the practical estimates of additions to real estate values and energy savings. It continues through city wide and region wide assets, moving toward unquantifiable values such as the creation of a sense of place and the stimulation of one's imaginative sense of unity with all creation. Once we understand the global linkage of energy consumption, air pollution and global warming, we can see that each step towards planting trees also ripples outward as a practical contribution to global sustainability.

Envisioning these multiple values is a worthwhile exercise. Once done, it has in itself a practical effect; it helps us to begin thinking in a more holistic way. When planting trees is seen not only as a beautification measure, but as an investment in a tourist attraction, an energy saving action, part of the city's stormwater management and air-cleaning systems, part of it's recreational assets, a health-promoting measure, provision of multiple outdoor educational sites, creation of a sense of civic pride, and builder of sense of community- then we have not only planted a tree but learned a new way to think, one that can shape not only our environment but our own character.

From these new trends can come a future unthought of today. Far from simply solving current problems with tree planting, we can be taking important steps toward a twenty-first century in which people and the planet have learned a new way to live in energetic harmony. Instead of being the antithesis of the natural world, cities can become exciting manifestations of nature's capacity to support and delight human life.

4.2 Sustainability

We have defined sustainabilty as the following: Using our resources in a sensitive and protective manner for our spiritual and intellectual fulfillment in all aspects of life, without compromising future generations ability to do so.

Currently the UW campus is not a sustainable system. Due to the lack of participation resulting from inadequate environmental education throughout most of the UW faculties, the campus is not as sustainable as it could be. At the time of construction of most of the UW buildings, energy conservation and landscape architecture were not given enough consideration. In turn, this has resulted in the inefficient use of resources.

One of the most important characteristics of a sustainable ecosystem, such as the UW campus, is maintaining a closed system. Within the closed system, the ideal goal is self sufficiency in terms of consumption and production. This means that we as inhabitants of an ecosystem will be solely responsible for all our needs such as food, energy, and water, as well as our waste. All aspects of the closed ecosystem should be highly integrated so as to ensure maximum efficiency.

In order to have sustainable tree planting practices, and proper maintenance programs, we need to be able to not only understand the physical characteristics of the trees, but as well, their contribution to the sustainabilty of the campus ecosystem. Many of the essential aspects of these characteristics are clearly explained in our "Value of Trees" section. In summary, trees play a crucial role in contributing to the overall sustainabilty of the University of Waterloo campus.

The foundations of every society is its collectively preconceived ideas, attitudes and norms. Before we can begin to create or achieve a sustainable ecosystem, we first need to fundamentally alter current attitudes and awareness. The basic idea for any change in society is education; participation is also necessary to achieve the final goal of sustainability. It is essential to realize that education and participation are closely related to one another. It is possible to participate without education, and at the same time, it is plausible to have education, without participation. Ultimately, however, we need both integrated with one another to have truly sustainable practices.

Sustainability includes all aspects of societal concerns and values. In order for the community to feel satisfied we need to establish a feeling of security, accessibility and aesthetic beauty throughout the system. Aesthetics not only involves natural beauty, but also incorporates a harmonious relationship between humans and their biotic, and abiotic surroundings. Since the Austrian pine is the most numerous tree (see Tree Inventory Results), it contributes greatly to the aesthetic value, as well as contributing to physical aspects of the campus. Through this examination we can also begin to understand and manage wildlife in relation to the Austrian pine, in a way which preserves the diversity of the campus.

The ultimate satisfaction is knowing when you have achieved your final goal; our goal being a sustainable UW campus. Education and participation in respect to the design characteristics set out regarding sustainable tree practices (see Tree Planting Practices), would be an indicator that sustainability on campus is readily achievable. Finally, when society has reached a symbiotic relationship with all integrated parts of the system, sustainability will have been achieved.

4.3 Austrian Pine

The Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra) as indicated by its name is native to Northern Europe and is known there as the Black Pine. Although this tree is indigenous to northern climates, it is very hearty and is able to survive in warmer climates as well.

Characteristics of the Austrian Pine include:

4.4 Sphaeropsis Blight/Diplodia Blight

Sphaeropsis blight, also referred to as Diplodia blight, is a devastating disease of pine trees, especially two and three needle pines growing under stressful conditions. The causal fungus, Sphaeropsis sapinea, is common in the northern and southern temperate regions around the world (Butin, 1995). In North America it occurs in California and western Canada and throughout the region delineated by Maine, Ontario, Montana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. It causes tip blight, resinous cankers on main stems and branches, misshapen tops, death of cones, blight of seedlings, dieback or basal cankers accompanied by gray to black stain of sapwood, and sometimes death of the entire trees( Butin, 1995). In a given region, Sphaeropsis blight may cause severe damage to pine species introduced from elsewhere, but it seldom does much damage to trees planted within the natural range of their species. It rarely causes damage in natural forests.

Many pines and several other conifers are reported hosts of S. sapinea. Austrian pines are often the most damaged species in North America. This disease should be considered likely to colonize any pine and many other conifers that grow under unfavorable environmental conditions and among diseased and highly susceptible species such as the Austrian pine. These trees are vulnerable because they are sources of large numbers of infectious spores. Similarly, although S. sapinea is sometimes seed bourne, it has caused much noticeable damage in nurseries only where old infected pines near seedbeds served as source spores.

The most common symptoms in North America are tip blight and death of low branches, the latter caused both by cankers and by increasing destruction of buds and shoots. Infections leading to tip blight begin on buds, on tems of elongating shoots, and sometimes on immature needles during a two to three week period in spring when shoots start to grow (Butin, 1995). The first symptom may be a discharge of resin from a small lesion. Lesions enlarge rapidly, and infected buds or shoots cease growth before or during needle elongation. Dying shoots turn shades of yellow green to straw colour. Tissues in lesions are resin soaked and discolored dark reddish brown, and they often excrete resin. Over time the resin crystallizes, making the dead shoot hard and brittle. When the disease is severe, clusters of shoots are blighted and branches become deformed. Stunted, straw colored shoots with short needles glued in place by resin are clear indicators that Sphaeropsis blight is present.

Cones become infected while growing rapidly in the spring of their second year of development. Cone infections are inconsequential for the general health of the trees but are important for their contribution to the epidemic because S. sapinea sporulates prolifically (Butin, 1995) on cone scales. The pathogen often builds up on cones before extensive infection of new shoots. Severe tip blight on pines of less than cone bearing age is uncommon.

In trees that are relatively free from stress, S. sapinea kills only current season buds and shoots and second year cones. Older twigs and branches are damaged only if the trees are affected by such conditions as water shortage, compacted soil, root injury, excess shade, or heat reflected from nearby roofs. Invasion of older parts is facilitated by growth and persistence of the parasite in the pith, in which it often grows a short distance into 1 year old twigs that appear healthy. From this advanced position it moves out into sapwood, bark, and needle bases if host defenses are impaired. Tip blight and low branch mortality tends to increase during successive years of drought and subside thereafter. (Butin, 1995)

Trees with Sphaeropsis blight may be pruned to improve their appearance, but this practice does not affect the likelihood of new infections because great numbers of conidia are released from diseased cones on green branches.

4.5 Landscape Architecture practices

When planting trees in an area such as the University of Waterloo, which are considered to be less than ideal for the growth of vegetation, there are some guidelines which, if implemented, could increase the life expectancy of those trees. These guidelines are not guarantees of healthy trees. They can, and should be used in combination with each other, and other established planting and maintenence practices. They are as follows: These are but a few landscape architecture practices which sould be implemented as the University enters the next century.

4.6 University of Waterloo Tree Planting Practices

On the university campus there is a variety of different tree species. Numerous reasons are responsible for each of these species being planted. Both ecological factors and social/economic factors have influenced the campus landscape.

On campus, some tree species have been located for ecological reasons. Factors such as soil erosion, soil conditions, and individual tree species habitat requirements have been considered. Plant operations has also, on some occasions, taken into account the growth rates of different tree species. Slower growing varieties (hardwoods) are planted along with faster growing (softwoods) varieties which are removed once the slower growing species mature.

On campus, social/economic factors have become the most influential, in regards to the choice and location of trees to be planted. Costs involved with the purchasing and maintenance of trees is one of the major factors in determining what is planted. Other factors include appearance or aesthetic value, desires of a single landscape architect or other influential bodies, donations, to honor graduating classes and other individuals, as well as to provide natural barriers to noise, wind, and other socially undesirable aspects.

In the case of the Austrian Pines, they were planted on the basis of their appearance and desirability to the landscape architect and other decision makers present at the time span in which they were planted (the majority were planted approximately 40 years ago). Also, the non-native species was planted because it is considered to be more full and shapely then other conifer species thus reducing the upkeep and the associated costs.

4.7 U.W. Tree Removal Practices

The University of Waterloo's policies for removing trees involves a variety of aspects. The authoritative body responsible for decisions regarding tree removal is Plant Operations, who either cut down or remove dying or severely damaged trees. In general, trees are removed or cut down for the following reasons: In instances where trees are cut down, the wood is used for mulch on campus or for barriers around many of the different gardens and flower beds. Trees that are removed are either transplanted elsewhere on campus or sold to interested parties.

5.0 Methods/ Table of Contents