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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)


Development and use of the i-Tree 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 (solhanlle.bonilla@intec.edu.do), Instituto Tecnológia de Santo Domingo (INTEC)
U.S. Partner: Gerald Bauer, U.S. Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Project dates: January 2017 - November 2020

Project Overview:

5-400 Jun 7 event 
From left to right: Mirel Volcan (field technician), Claudia Caballero (graduate student of the project),  Maria and Luis Paulino (field technicians of bird watching), U.S. Partner Dr. Gerald Bauer,  project PI Dr. Solhanlle Bonilla, Olga Ramos (USFS headquarters Puerto Rico), Gilkauris Rojas (co-researcher of the proposal presented for the city of Santiago), Ana Pou (Assistant of the Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project). 
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 i-Tree 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 i-Tree 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 i-Tree 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.

As 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. State and local agencies in the DR are addressing these potential impacts and are working towards developing adaptation strategies in collaboration with U.S. based agencies, including USAID and the USDA Forest Service. Urban areas, such as Santo Domingo, are of particular concern because of greater number of people living in particularly poor, marginalized communities located in high-risk areas. The extensive and aging infrastructure throughout the city and the lack of forest vegetation creates added risks such as urban flooding and water quality issues that will exacerbate climate-related impacts and biodiversity impoverishment. The Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC), in partnership with Municipality of Santo Domingo, USAID, Universidad de Puerto Rico, and USDA Forest Service is taking steps to develop adaptation strategies, such as the use of green infrastructure at the watershed level to minimize flood risks throughout the city. The i-Tree tool, which is a widely used application in cities worldwide, is used to asses and manage community forests and their faunal communities, and link urban forest management to environmental quality and community livability in the Santo Domingo area.

Dr. Bonilla and her team are working closely with i-Tree Forest Service scientists applying i-Tree tools to understand the quality and distribution of urban green infrastructure and its capacity to provide ecosystem-based adaptation services in the Santo Domingo area.

Objectives:
  • Perform an inventory of common green via a combination of ground and aural-visual surveys and landscape level remote-sensing information
  • 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
  • Implement i-Tree tools to evaluate the degree of ecosystem service provision by existing green infrastructure
  • Build local capacity in the evaluation of urban forests through workshops and hands-on training with local managers, decision-makers, and broader stakeholders on i-Tree.  
Impact:
  • Academic scientific articulation between research centers in the United States and Puerto Rico and Dominican universities.
  • Synergies between the academic sector, civil society, municipality and public sector to address solutions to urban planning through scientific knowledge.
  • Development of 12 projects for estimating ecosystem services of urban trees in the Dominican Republic
  • Integration of 16 Dominican Universities (RAUDO) in the process of measuring the green infrastructure of the city of Santo Domingo
  • Use of the i-Tree tool in master's degree thesis at local universities
  • Participation in scientific activities at national level, in Latin America, USA, and Europe
  • Measuring birds' biodiversity in the urban forests in Santo Domingo city
  • Air quality associated with green infrastructure in the city of Santo Domingo
  • Training of university professors, technicians of public institutions, technicians of municipalities, specialists of civic society organizations, independent consultants, students and citizens with sensitivity and interest in environmental research
 
 
5-400 Jerry Bauer5-400 instructor 5-400 itree students
Instructor Leonardo Cortez,  PEER field technician, showing a student how to use hypsometer to measure tree height
PEER/INTEC students with the PEER project coordinator Photo courtesy of Prof. Bauer

 
 
Potential Development Impact:

According to Dr. Bonilla, the project has had important impacts so far, influencing consideration of urban forests as providers of environmental services and their management as a tool for adaptation to climate change in the cities. Through networking in national and international settings, the project has contributed to the creation of air quality monitoring networks, and has enhanced the understanding of the importance of biodiversity for urban forests, and has also been vital for  presentation of new research proposals. As part of the efforts to enhance  participation from the public, private sector, NGOs and academia, the project has been training  teachers, students, and  municipalities' staff on the use of the iTree tool. Students of different academic levels have been engaged in the project's research activities as well.

Project updates:
Because of the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic,current and future travel and project activities scheduled for the last two weeks of March have had to be postponed due to the nationwide quarantine. The team continues virtual meetings to the extent possible, and as soon as the situation is normalizes, all the activities will be rescheduled and resumed.


 
 
 
 
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