Parks and open space provide an environmental support system for Portland to thrive. According to a Portland Parks & Recreation report, parks and street trees alone provide nearly 414 million gallons of storm water filtration and remove more than 25 million pounds of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide from the air each year in Portland. This green infrastructure benefits people and wildlife alike and raises the quality of life for everyone in the area.
To better understand how parks contribute to the environmental health of our city, last month I attended the Urban Ecosystem Research Consortium’s (UERC) Symposium at Portland State University and sat down with one of the group leaders, Dr. Alan Yeakley, Director of the School for the Environment at Portland State University.
For those who haven’t heard of UERC, it is a group of people from all backgrounds and disciplines working together in the Portland and Vancouver area “. . . to advance the state of the science of urban ecosystems and improve our understanding of them. . .” They host free brown-bag talks throughout the year and an annual symposium each winter.
The UERC Symposium harkened back to the ‘web of life’ lessons we all learned in elementary school except with one very important twist - it was evident at UERC that it takes a web of humans from a large number of disciplines, as well as the right combination of plants, animals, soil and streams to maintain a positive relationship with nature in our urban landscape.
I asked Dr. Yeakley about this emphasis on cross-disciplinary work in environmental research today. “Urban ecology is becoming more and more integrated, connecting natural scientists with social scientists,” said Dr. Yeakley. Especially in urban areas, the part that humans play in the conservation or degradation of natural resources is large. “There is so much research going on and it is important to understand the political and economic factors that influence the conservation effort,” said Dr. Yeakley
In the Portland area, economic impacts of flooding events and governmental regulations, especially around endangered species, have spurred much of the habitat restoration investment in the past several decades. Citizens have increasingly advocated for green infrastructure and voted to provide tax dollars for projects and research to make our city’s environment healthy for future generations.
From the work of the agencies, universities, non-profits as well as private citizens, a sample of which was provided in the research presentations at UERC, it is evident that Portland’s parks are an important resource for understanding and maintaining the environmental health of our city. Private funding from individuals and organizations is an important ingredient to enhance sustainable management of our urban environment. The Portland Parks Foundation is committed to a thriving park system for a healthy Portland, and research from local scientists affirm the importance of our mission.
Read the UERC Symposium materials at: http://www.uercportland.org/annual-symposium