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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Development and use of the iTree tool to explore the potential for urban green infrastructure as an adaption strategy to climate change resilience in the City of Santo Domingo

PI: Solhanlle Bonilla Duarte (, Instituto Tecnológia de Santo Domingo (INTEC)
U.S. Partner: Gerald Bauer, U.S. Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Project dates: January 2017 - December 2019

Project Overview:

5-400 bird
Male Cape May Warbler using habitat in the green spaces of the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE). As part of the iTree and PEER programs data is being collected on urban birds in Santo Domingo
This study uses an Ecosystem Services approach to generate information for land use planning within the context of climate change adaption. This approach uses science-based indicators that classify ecosystems and their function and potential services in order to evaluate the influence of social, economic, and environmental service flows on human well-being, with the ultimate goal of guiding land-use planning. Reducing the impacts of urbanization and climate change has been a primary target of ecosystem services research, but research activity of this type in the tropics has been limited. The iTree is a public domain model provided by the USDA Forest Service and is used to aid planners and managers in the valuation and management of urban forests by quantifying the ecosystem services they provide. Although the iTree tool has been widely in many U.S. cities and internationally, its use in the Caribbean has been very limited as well. The proposed project will assist in gathering scientific information that can be readily used to set ecosystem function and services management goals and evaluate climate change scenarios that are appropriate for tropical ecosystem context, thus expanding the iTree model. Additionally, this project will establish an innovative collaborative platform that integrates multiple scientific disciplines with outreach and education towards greater understanding of urban infrastructure and sustainability.

Like many small island nations, the Dominican Republic is vulnerable to climate-related impacts, including sea level rise, flooding, heat, prolonged droughts, and disruptions in water supply. Urban areas, such as Santo Domingo, are of particular concern because of their greater population and their exposure to watershed-level risks such as urban flooding and water quality issues. The Municipality of Santo Domingo, in partnership with the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC), USAID, and the USDA Forest Service, is developing adaptation strategies, including the use of green infrastructure to control flooding. However, there is a great need for tools to evaluate and prioritize green infrastructure strategies and impacts in hydrological function for cities.

This team will use the iTree tool to assess and manage forests and their faunal communities and link urban forest management to environmental quality and community livability. Dr. Bonilla and her team will work closely with iTree Forest Service scientists to apply the tool to understand the quality and distribution of urban green infrastructure and its capacity to provide ecosystem-based adaptation services in the Santo Domingo area. Specifically, they will 1) perform an inventory of common green spaces combining field surveys and landscape-level remote-sensing data; 2) carry out an inventory of woody and wildlife species using a stratified sampling method of common green spaces following Forest Service inventory and wildlife survey protocols; and 3) implement iTree tools to model the degree of ecosystem service provision by existing green infrastructure. The outcomes of this project should positively impact planning and implementation by building local capacity in the evaluation of urban forests, as the team plans several workshops and training events for local managers, decision-makers, and stakeholders on iTree.

Recent project updates:

During the first year of the project, the team collected technical information on climate change and characteristics of the Santo Domingo metropolitan area for using in the iTree analysis. Meetings with  various stakeholders, governmental agencies and other groups in the Dominican Republic were conducted to collect existing GIS and mapping information. The team met with stakeholders in Santo Domingo, including governmental agencies, NGOs, community groups, universities, municipal government, Ministry of Environment, and local scientists. PEER work activities were explained  to collect scientific information on local weather, flora, fauna, GPS data that could be useful for PEER and urban green area management. Conference calls and meetings with International Programs (IP), University of Puerto Rico and Northern Research Station to coordinate iTree activities  and meetings with USFS International Institute of Tropical Forestry, University of Puerto Rico and USFS Northern Research Station to coordinate PEER activities were conducted.  

5-400 Jerry Bauer5-400 instructor 
iTree students measuring a field plot in the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) parking lot. Simon Guerreo (R) is a professor at UNIBE and is a cooperator with INTEC teaching environmental courses and promoting conservation of green spaces in Santo Domingo [Photo courtesy of Dr. Bauer]Instructor Leonardo Cortez,  PEER field technician, showing a student how to use hypsometer to measure tree height [Photo courtesy of Dr. Bauer]

iTree field data collection in the ADN is ongoing. This field work is being completed by neighborhoods, during this reporting period the field work was completed for 200 field plots in the ADN. Bird survey protocol was developed and  data collected on birds as bio-indicators of the health and integrity of Santo Domingo’s green areas, and as providers of ecosystem services to local communities, in conjunction with iTree plots in ADN. Avian point-count surveys are  being conducted using a state-of-the-art occupancy model framework modified for urban environments by IITF and Northern Research Station scientists in four sectors of Santo Domingo, Colonial Zone, Ciudad Nueva, San Carlos and Gazcue.  Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW) survey instrument has been developed as part of the iTree Urban Forest Management activities. This survey was distributed to 220 environmental stakeholders in Santo Domingo,  data will be downloaded and analyzed.  The STEW Map survey is being conducted in conjunction and coordination with ADN, INTEC, and other partners.

Potential developmental impacts
The project has been well received by local stakeholders which helped advance the methodology and the use of the i-Tree tool for making important decisions about the environmental quality of the city and the importance of urban trees for adaptation and climatic resilience. The project team has been able to establish  the city's air and noise quality monitoring network, which will be established in a consortium with the Environmental Network of Dominican Universities and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
The INTEC team along with the scientists of the United States Forest Service, Puerto Rico headquarters, the University of Puerto Rico and the Tropical Forestry Center  form a multidisciplinary team which is planning to take into account complementary variables for the analysis of the contributions of the green infrastructure of the city, such as air quality, bird biodiversity and effects on temperatures and energy consumption.  
The project aims to:
(1) perform an inventory of common green spaces via a combination of field surveys and landscape level remote-sensing data; 
(2) carry out inventory of woody and wildlife species using a stratified sampling method of common green spaces following FS-inventory and wildlife survey protocols;
(3) implement iTree tools to model the degree of ecosystem service provision by existing green infrastructure. 
The outcomes of this project will positively impact planning and implementation by building local capacity in the evaluation of urban forests through workshops and training with local managers, decision-makers, and stakeholders on i-Tree. 

Ongoing and upcoming activities:
• Analysis of STEW map survey
• i-Tree training in Santo Domingo Universities, San Pedro Macoris and local stakeholders (8 organizations to receive i-Tree training)
• Urban bird identification workshop for stakeholders 
• Analysis of i-Tree field data
• Continue bird point-counts and analysis of data
• i-Tree workshop with stakeholders. It is estimated that 50-100 stakeholders will participate in this workshop.
February 5-6-7, 2018 a short-course on Urban Green Area Management will be held at the Universidad Central del Este (UCE) in cooperation with Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC), Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER), US Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, and University of Puerto Rico. About 25 participants will take the short-course. Participants will be introduced to the iTree methodology, a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service that provides urban and rural forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools. The i-Tree tools can help strengthen forest management and advocacy efforts by quantifying forest structure and the environmental benefits that trees provide. Later in February the iTree short-course will be given to participants from UNPHU, Univ Catolica, UASD, PUCMM and UNAPEC, Jardin Botanico, and Juntos Vecinos.
The US Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry and the University of Puerto Rico will provide instructors for the course, with assistance from five Dominicans who previously received iTree training. Funding for this short-course is provided by the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER), USAID/Dominican Republic and US Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry.

 5-400computer laboratory at UCE  San Pedro  5-400 Ancient tree on university campus
This computer laboratory at UCE, San Pedro Macoris will be used for the iTree Urban Green Area management short-course to be held February 5-6-7, 2018. Dr. Solhanlle Bonilla Duarte (INTEC), Francesco Gravina (UCE), Wilmar Paulino (UCE), Antonio Robles (UCE), and Mirel Volcan (UCE/PEER) are planning course activities.  An ancient tree on the UCE campus, San Pedro Macoris. The iTree short-course will teach techniques for management of urban green areas to help preserve tress such as this one.

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