Wild Basin preserve said to be worth millions ecology-wise
Part of its value is the amount of CO2 it takes from the air.
By Katie Urbaszewski kurbaszewski@ acnnewspapers.com
From an early age, people are taught that trees are a vital element of a healthy ecosystem, but it’s hard to understand what that really means for communities.
Three St. Edward’s University students recently sought to spell that out for people, calculating the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve’s value to its surrounding communities and ultimately determining that this preserve off Loop 360 (Capital of Texas Highway) is worth $344 million. This is based on the air pollution the Wild Basin mitigates, the storm water it intercepts and how much energy might be conserved because the preserve is near homes and other buildings.
These researchers estimated the Wild Basin stores over half a million metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to the yearly greenhouse gas emissions from over 110,000 cars.
“Trees are able to capture some of that CO2 that’s being emitted,” St. Edward’s student Suzzanne Gamboa said. “These natural areas are able to remove carbon and air pollution and produce a better place for us to live in.”
Grad students Gamboa, Erica Joelson and Christina McGlew will travel to France to present their findings at a conference and Joelson will also present their findings to the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences in San Diego this summer, Gamboa said.
Gamboa said she and the other two researchers were shocked by their results.
“You don’t really know what the software’s going to calculate, so it was very fascinating to us to see the large number,” she said, referring to the free, public domain software i-Tree Eco that calculated the amount of carbon stored in the trees as well as the preserve’s monetary value after the group measured and identified the vegetation in five sample plots throughout the Wild Basin.
While St. Edward’s has received grants to research the land, the university also offers its own grant to students from the Dr. Allan W. Hook Endowed Wild Basin Creative Research Fund. Hook, who died two years ago, was instrumental in getting the university to take over the management of the Wild Basin, the preserve’s management has said.
The three researcher’s work would not have been possible without the grant, Gamboa said.
Since St. Edward’s took over the management of the Wild Basin, a preserve adjacent to West Lake Hills off Loop 360, in 2009, students have descended on the land for research and other projects.
“I love it; they’ve done a fantastic job,” Flo Macklin said of St. Edward’s use of the property. Macklin was one of “the little old ladies in tennis shoes,” women who were instrumental in getting the Wild Basin to become a protected preserve decades ago.
“It was a great melding because the Wild Basin was always supposed to be for education,” Macklin said. “For years, they (St. Edward’s) helped us before they took over, which is why it was such a great marriage.”
St. Edward’s accepts candidates for its grant outside the university as well. The projects don’t even have to be science-related, with several art and education programs conducted within the basin.
Contact Katie Urbaszewski at 512-445-3707.
Christina McGlew of St. Edward’s University measures the diameter of an Ashe juniper tree recently. The tree is in one of the sample plots that is part of an ecology study. CONTRIBUTED