Whittier Narrows Tree Planting Program

Combating the invasive boring beetle

After losing hundreds of trees to a newly invasive boring beetle species, the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area is receiving a much-needed rejuvenation. AMIGOS is  initiating a four-year tree (restoration) planting program in the park, replacing the lost plants with pest-resistant trees, promoting access to the park, and foster community participation in citizen science.

The culprit

Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) a boring beetle that carries the pathogenic fungus (Fusarium euwallacea). This fungus is responsible for destroying many Southern California forests over the past three years. With our Whittier Narrows program we have set out to reverse the damage created by PSHB.

Benefits of this tree restoration project

far exceed surface-level aesthetics at Whittier Narrows. The urban heat island effect takes a particularly damaging toll in South El Monte, where summer temperatures often soar above 90 degrees for days. Planting trees decreases the proportion of impermeable surfaces (like asphalt and concrete) that absorb and retain lots of heat, significantly decreasing ambient temperatures.

Adding to these benefits, trees provide further energy savings to the surrounding communities through vegetative cooling, humidity modification, wind mitigation, and water uptake. The tree species were chosen specifically for their ability to sequester CO2 and other greenhouse gases. They will offset GHG emissions traffic on nearby freeways around Whittier Narrows;  I-10, 60, and 605 freeways, improving air quality for 80,000 South El Monte residents and 10,000 commuters.

Additionally, Amigos plans to add to its  tree planting database by indexing each tree, noting the GPS location in the urban forest, tree height, canopy size, and other characteristic details. The majority of this process will be performed by citizen science volunteers.

Funding is provided by California Releaf Social Equity Tree Planting Grant and the California Natural Resources Agency Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program.