Trees are a part of any golf course. These trees perform a variety of environmental functions such as providing wildlife habitat, reducing soil and water erosion, providing wind protection, increasing biodiversity and carbon sequestration, and many more. Many golf courses are lacking tree diversity. This can pose a significant problem to the entire ecological integrity of golf courses. Tree diversity is also a crucial component of overall tree/ forest health. Importance of tree diversity lies in increasing biodiversity, increasing resilience to pests and disease and reducing environmental stress factors. Tree diversity will most importantly reduce potential financial risk of loosing majority of trees in golf courses. The more variety of trees that you have on your golf course, the ecologically and economically healthier the golf course is.
Why tree diversity in golf courses?
The challenge is where one or two tree species contribute almost 90% of the total number of trees within the golf course. Having overwhelmingly one or two species within the golf course can pose several challenges:
- In the case of insect outbreak (e.g., Emerald Ash borer, Mountain Pine Beetle, and variety of other deadly insects) majority of trees would disappear from golf course properties.
- In the case of deadly diseases such as Dutch Elm disease, the golf course may lose all elm trees.
- Drought, floods, soil compaction, chemical use and other environmental issues can create stress for all trees.
What are the benefits from tree diversity?
With a variety of tree species there is no single insect, disease or environmental issue that will affect all the trees at the same time. Here are some key benefits of having a variety of trees:
- Improving tree health and survival – each of those trees have natural insect and disease problems. If you have only a few species; the insect or disease outbreak will instantly have an impact on them and can kill all of them at once. Diversity will host more of beneficial insect, fungus, bacteria, and viruses that will keep in check unwanted pests or diseases. Pest or pathogen of one particular species will not affect the health of other species. Diversity will greatly reduce the overall mortality or stagnation.
- Reducing impact of climate change – Tree diversity will reduce negative climate change impact by reducing environmental stress and improving environmental security – diversity will increase chances against various environmental issues such as drought, flooding, frost, salt, and many others. Each tree variety has their own adaptation to those issues and will increase the chance of their own survival as well as the survival of the whole ecosystem.
- Improving ecological function – variety of trees can create their own individual ecosystem and together they can create ecosystem that is more complex.
- Increasing biodiversity – By having more biodiversity, the trees and shrubs will improve soil nutrients, create different microclimates, attract many wildlife and beneficial insects while increasing productivity for the whole ecosystem.
- Increasing real estate value of golf course – besides personal enjoyment; enhancing the wildlife habitat and aesthetic appearance of the landscape, tree diversity will also increase real estate values of your golf course.
What are the steps for tree diversity?
It is very important to keep in mind that golf courses do not need to be turned into arboretum. Planting trees to diversify golf course tree structure must have a purpose. Planting trees for sake of achieving tree diversity is a totally wrong approach.
- Conducting tree inventory is the first step to provide insightful information about tree species structure and overall health of trees.
- Performing site assessment which will include the following information: Soil characteristics, topography, hydrology, weather, exposure, elevation and others.
- Choosing right tree species is crucial. Each tree has some good and bad characteristics regardless if you like them or not. There is no perfect tree. Start with a choice between native vs introduced trees species.
- Perform proper tree planting using “right tree at right spot” concept.
- Ensure a long-term care and maintenance plan.
Golf courses with variety of tree species are ensuring and enabling a long-term ecological and economic sustainability. Achieving tree diversity requires knowledge, expertise and creativity. People love to see new and unusual trees, and tree diversity will break the monotonous appearance of a golf course.