Southern Methodist University

The campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU) is located in a highly developed and urbanized area of Dallas, Texas. Surrounded by concrete, large buildings, and major transportation corridors the SMU campus is an oasis of green comprised of 2,236 trees. To better understand the role trees play on campus, a partnership between Southern Methodist University and Texas Trees Foundation was created to inventory and study the shade and ornamental tree species growing on the campus grounds.

This study is an effort to:

  1. Determine the actual size and scope of the urban forest on the campus of SMU
  2. Catalog each campus tree based on species, size, and location
  3. Asses the current health and management needs of the trees on campus
  4. Determine the ecosystem service benefits and replacement value which the trees provide to the SMU community
Importance of trees

Trees are essential to our world and offer a wide range of benefits to our environment. The list of benefits that trees provide is long. Pollution reduction, energy savings, heat island mitigation, stormwater management, erosion control, wildlife habitat, and an enhanced sense of self and place are all well known, long term benefits of our Urban Forest.

Trees are one of the most effective ways to bring about widespread improvement in the environment and the quality of life of an area. Even in a vast metropolitan area like Dallas, where the grey infrastructure far out weights the green, trees play a colossal role in regulating temperature, improving air and water quality and increasing energy savings.

Impact of campus trees

By understanding the structure, function, and value of an urban forest, Facility Services, the Office of Planning, Design, and Construction, and other departmental services can promote better management decisions that will improve the overall health and safety of urban trees. By promoting better management decisions, stakeholders can share with the public the knowledge that trees are a capital asset to the community. With sound planning and good decision making, newly planted and existing trees will continue to grow, thrive and lessen the probability of causing future problems or conflicts. Moving away from a reaction based management program to a pro-active approach will ensure a healthier and safer campus and, over time, will reduce management and maintenance costs.

Key Findings
  • Number of trees: 2,236
  • 25% Canopy Cover
  • Most common species: live oak, crape myrtle, Shumard Red oak
  • Over 50% of the trees are between 4-12 inches in DBH (Diameter Breast Height)
  • Of the 2,236 trees, 2,075 are in fair to good condition
  • Carbon Sequestration: 793,251 pounds per year (value: $6,283/year)
  • Carbon Storage: 12,278,716 total pounds stored (value: $92,000)
  • Energy Savings: $24,417 each year
  • Annual Rainfall Interception: 8.1 million cubic feet per year (value: $80,472/year)
  • Structural value: $10.2 million
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