ASU campuses are central components and partners in their respective communities. Each is in a position to not only create a sustainable identity for itself, but also serve as a model of sustainability for the surrounding community and to promote meaningful change.

Life on land

Terrestrial ecosystems

ASU ensures the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems and habitat on new projects, not just reducing impacts of landscapes. This encourages native species, reduces urban heat island effect and enhances desert habitats. Existing areas are being managed to reduce impact and overall land use for adaptation to climate change.

ASU is a Tree Campus Higher Education institution. Tree Campus Higher Education, a national program launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation, honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation. To obtain this distinction, ASU met the five core standards for effective tree campus forest management, including the establishment of a tree advisory committee, evidence of a campus tree care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observation and the sponsorship of student service learning projects. Campus trees provide spaces of refuge and reflection to students, staff, faculty and the community.

The ASU Arboretum collection is registered with the North American Plant Collections Consortium and the American Association of Botanic Gardens and Arboretums.

ASU's metropolitan Phoenix campuses are located in drylands. ASU requires Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification for all new construction of university-owned and operated buildings. ASU's requirement for LEED construction is supplemented with the university's Sustainable Design Guidelines. As part of this certification, ASU must not develop land deemed sensitive, such as habitat identified as threatened or endangered species or ecological communities.

The Carbon Sink and Learning Forest mitigates ASU's carbon emissions while providing a learning laboratory for ASU faculty and students. The forest consists of 1,000 trees on 10.5 acres at the ASU West campus. As a living laboratory, faculty and staff have access to investigate a wide range of research questions while the trees mature and sequester carbon.

ASU has worked with the cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe to plant native trees with the help of many volunteers. As they grow, the trees will sequester carbon to reduce ASU's carbon emissions. During their life, the trees reduce the urban heat island effect, beautify the community and provide shade.


ASU Grounds Services and the Office of the University Architect acclimate the current plant palette of permitted species across all ASU locations for the adaptation to climate change. This includes the use of drought-tolerant plants to minimize water use where possible.

The designated plant palette acts as the baseline for all site development work at ASU and was developed to highlight native, arid region and desert-adapted species and eliminate the use of invasive species.

All ASU landscapes are designed without the use of the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed invasive alien species and managed to reduce invasive non-natives. IUCN species have been identified with ranges that extend onto ASU property. No critical habitat has been identified.

  • Read more: Please see Site Improvements Design Guidelines above.

All endangered and threatened species are required to be permitted and tagged by the Arizona Department of Agriculture, Native Plant Division. Where possible, all existing plant material should be noted and cataloged for potential salvage operations.

ASU is an IUCN Red List Partner. IUCN Red List quantifies global species extinction risk to inform policy, planning and conservation action around the world. ASU evaluates and applies scientific data, assisting global leaders to develop strategies for species conservation and biodiversity decision-making.

ASU houses a living laboratory for students to add to conservation's understanding of behavior, biology, and habitat needs.

Biodiversity Assessment

The ASU Biodiversity Assessment to identify endangered and vulnerable species, including migratory species, has been compiled with IPaC and IUCN Red List databases. The assessment conducted to identify areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution has been compiled with Key Biodiversity Areas Integrated Biodiversity Assessment tool.

Boundaries for the assessment include property owned and operated at the five campuses in Arizona to fulfill AASHE STARS criteria. This list will be updated every three years to address property boundary changes and any new species identified with critical habitats within ASU property boundaries or newly identified KBAs. This assessment will inform watershed planning, land-use guidelines and invasive species planning.

Endangered and vulnerable species assessments were completed through the IPaC and IUCN Red List species. This includes “Near Threatened,” “Threatened,” “Vulnerable” and “Endangered” species that have habitat ranges that pass through ASU property. There are 17 total species, of which, only eight have habitat found on ASU property. It is important to note that of the eight, four are fish species and may not be found directly on ASU property. 

Life below water


ASU's Facilities Development and Management is responsible for the oversight and management of ASU's Stormwater Program as well as the Enforcement Response Plan. The ERP presents ASU enforcement provisions as specified in its Stormwater Management Program. ASU's SWMP was developed in 2004 and underwent significant revision in 2017, in response to ASU growth and geographic expansion. ASU's SWMP is intended to be in general conformance with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

ASU controls the contribution of pollutants to the watershed by stormwater and non-stormwater discharges through our comprehensive stormwater management program.

ASU designs spaces to control runoff to contain stormwater on-site utilizing drywells, bioswales and retention basins to maintain the health of our water discharge system. ASU is a producer of wastewater and stormwater in urban watershed management.

ASU works to capture and use rainwater for buildings and landscape use so as to minimize water withdrawals and protect our Salt River ecosystem and watershed.

ASU uses green infrastructure to slow stormwater surges and minimize alterations of the Salt River ecosystem due to both chemical runoff and the physical impact of flood waters.

Small scale Urban Ecological Infrastructure bio-retention basins are installed at ASU's Orange Mall and Student Pavilion in Tempe. This design process encompasses a design process associated with the collaborative development of an eco-hydrological monitoring protocol for assessment of post-construction performance of this UEI system. The UEI system has two key design goals: stormwater capture and stormwater quality improvement.

Sustainable Urban Ecology

ASU’s Sustainable Urban Ecology framework establishes an initial biodiversity plan and management strategy to guide campus biodiversity, rewilding and sustainable urban development initiatives.

The plan focuses on the metro Phoenix campuses that are in the Sonoran Desert biome and could be utilized as a platform for measuring biodiversity and urban heat island in the Phoenix area. It provides a set of tools to adapt the current landscape to climate change, such as creating a desired plant palette, goals and targets to enhance key biodiversity areas and create a multi-functional learning landscape that will be an investment for the future by preserving natural systems at ASU.  

To determine the impacts of rewilding ASU will observe areas of campus that have been rewilded in terms of water conservation, soil nutrition, air quality, types of native plant species and animal-insect-reptile impacts. ASU will collect these same data from areas of campus that have not been rewilded. The impacts on faculty, student and staff connectedness to nature will also be measured across campuses.

ASU will measure overall success at an institutional scale and balance the university against the broader community and the Phoenix area. ASU will implement plans and programs to protect or positively affect the species, habitats and/or ecosystems and develop a model for what climate resilient urban landscapes can provide for humans and nature.