Ecosystems are much more than our natural environment.
They are communities of living organisms, such as humans, animals and plants, and the non-living materials they interact with, such as water, air and soil. As the unseen regulators of carbon emissions, ecosystems play a key role in our climate contribution and how we experience impacts such as drought, temperature extremes and pest infestation. To achieve our climate goals, we must improve the health and resilience of Boulder’s ecosystems through strategic land management and practices.
Our climate goal: Enhance the ability of urban, wildland and agricultural ecosystems to capture and stabilize carbon in the atmosphere and moderate climatic extremes.
Ecosystem action areas and goals
Goal: By 2050, Boulder’s urban landscape will be planted with trees and plants that can moderate climate extremes, reduce energy and water use, improve water quality, and enhance the beauty and livability of Boulder’s urban environment. More than 35 percent of the land area in the developed portions of Boulder will be shaded by trees.
Boulder has more than 650,000 trees—about 6.7 trees per person—yet most of these trees are located in open space and provide a limited buffer against temperature extremes in the areas where we live and work. Due to infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer beetle, Boulder is expected to lose up to 20 percent its urban tree canopy in the next five to 10 years. By increasing the number, diversity and placement of trees in Boulder’s urban centers, we will improve air and water quality, reduce building heating and cooling needs, and mitigate the visible loss of hundreds of thousands of ash trees in our community.
2015-2020 City Urban Ecosystem Action Plan Priorities
• Review and revise parking lot shading guidelines and enforcement of increased canopy cover.
• Conduct a comprehensive urban forest inventory.
• Monitor the urban forest using both on-the-ground and remote sensing technologies to document how it is responding to climate change and establish ongoing monitoring protocol.
•Increase the diversity of urban tree species to improve overall urban forest resilience.
• Review and improve strategies for responding to pest and disease invasions.
• Review and refine park and natural space plans to minimize damage from the impacts of increased use and warmer conditions.
• Explore the establishment of a partner non-profit urban forest foundation to leverage additional financial and community support for the urban forest.
Goal: By 2050, Boulder’s surrounding lands will be managed to maintain a vibrant and diverse natural ecosystems while also being able to adapt to significantly different growing conditions and species compositions.
From forests and grasslands to alpine and desert, Boulder’s extensive wildland ecosystems play an important role in maintaining the livability and beauty of our community in the face of climate change. Boulder will continue to experience rising temperatures that will upset the delicate balance of our wildland ecosystems and likely result in increased fire and flood frequency, less snowpack, more drought, bigger spread of invasive species, and more. By improving the resilience and climate-stabilization abilities of our wildlands, we will support the continued vibrancy, diversity and benefit of Boulder’s natural ecosystems in the face of climate change.
2015-2020 City Wildland Ecosystem Action Plan Priorities
• Incorporating climate change into all levels of planning. In particular, invest in scenario planning, focusing on novel future conditions so that recommendations for land management reflect the best available and most current science and potential range of impacts.
• Manage landscapes to support ecosystem transitions.
• Identify multiple biological indicators of climate change sensitivity and response; specifically, identify high risk assets for monitoring or intervention. .
•Develop downscaled future climate layers and use them to predict the return interval of extreme events.
Goal: By 2050, agriculture on city lands will maximize the health and climate benefits of soil and associated ecosystems while producing more local foods.
The City of Boulder leases nearly 15,000 acres of agricultural lands, most of which is used for livestock grazing and part of which is focused on locally-marketed food products. Agriculture accounts for approximately nine percent of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide; however, agricultural practices can also be used to reduce emissions and capture carbon in soil, which helps to stabilize the climate and foster agricultural production and land health. By supporting Boulder farmers in using organic and other sustainable farming practices, we will reduce emissions from agriculture and increase the ability of agricultural lands to stabilize the climate.
2015-2020 City Agricultural Ecosystem Action Plan Priorities
- Continue the development of Best Management Practices for Soil Sequestration--Soil sequestration of carbon is a new science and Best Management Practices for our local climate and soils are still being developed. The city is working on developing soil organic matter sampling procedures to set standards for acceptable conditions and work towards increasing soil organic matter and soil health on city-owned agricultural lands.
- Implement soil protection actions—Work with agricultural lessees and university researchers to adopt soil conservation systems such as reduced tillage, cover cropping and longer crop rotations.
- Identify suitable sites to run pilot projects for soil sequestration of carbon—Explore collaboration opportunities between the city and Boulder County, as well as private farms which are already using many soil carbon sequestration methods, to provide opportunities for testing various soil sequestration strategies.
- Explore Opportunities to Incentivize “Carbon Farming”—Identify and assess opportunities to incentivize sequestration management through both local carbon offset funding or the development of external carbon market incentives such as the Carbon Trade Exchange
- Initiate a public information campaign to encourage Soil Sequestration of Carbon by homeowners, farmers, and on public lands. Carbon can be sequestered in lawns, mulched flower beds, vegetable gardens, farm fields, rangelands and forest lands. Partnerships with public or private entities can amplify the campaign’s effectiveness.