Climate change threatens the survival of older forests and trees

Much of the U.S. has been warmer in recent years, affecting not only which trees are right for planting, but also threatening the survival of older forests.

A Yale Environmental 360 article by Bruce Dorminey reported the giant sequoias native to California’s Sierra Nevada are facing the looming effects of declining snowpack and rising temperatures.

Photo Credit: VisitSequoia.org

Photo Credit: VisitSequoia.org

Giant sequoias are the world’s largest living species, reaching heights of 300 feet and girths as large as 150 feet. Dorminey wrote, “some sequoias can live in excess of 3,000 years before being naturally toppled by a combination of weather and gravity.”

Giant sequoias have evolved and thrived for multiple millenniums. The species may have survived previous eras of climate change but Dorminey says U.S. government and university researchers claim the long-term existence of these trees might now be endangered as a result of the changing Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack and current changes to the climate.

Less moisture and longer, warmer summers make it difficult for giant sequoias, especially the seedlings and young trees with smaller root systems, to survive.

The complex interaction of rising temperatures and shifts in snowmelt and precipitation is slowly altering and threatening environments where certain tree species have evolved and thrived.

Warmer temperatures also pose the threat of insect infestations which have already killed spruce and pine trees across more than 70,000 square miles of western North America.

Dorminey presented research showing how older forests and trees have proven to be at greater risk to the effects of climate change.

A recent study published in the journal Science found that trees ranging from 100 to 300 years old, located across a wide range of global landscapes, were experiencing rising death rates. This study and other research found that higher temperatures and drier conditions have played an important role in tree mortality and forest drought stress across the continents.

hardiness zoneYou can see how regional climates have changed over the past few years by visiting the Arbor Day Foundation’s U.S. Hardiness Zone map which was developed based upon data from 5,000 National Climatic Data Center cooperative stations across the continental U.S.

 

Baltimore TreeKeepers teach residents how to care for trees

A new program in Baltimore, Maryland, has recently upped its proactive approach to caring for city trees.

treebaltimoreThanks to a mutual effort by the city forestry board, the nonprofit Baltimore Tree Trust and Tree Baltimore, residents citywide are able to sign up for Baltimore TreeKeepers, which offers free tree stewardship classes and will aid in achieving the city’s goal of increasing tree canopy from 27-40 percent by 2040.

In a Baltimore Sun article, Amanda Cunningham, executive director of Baltimore Tree Trust, said TreeKeepers mission is “to get more trees in the ground, protect the ones we have and educate the public. We’re trying to get trees in neighborhoods with low tree counts.”

Erik Dihle, Baltimore’s city arborist, also promoted the important role TreeKeepers will play in achieving “buy-in” from the community. “We want the citizens of Baltimore to take ownership of the beautiful heritage we have.”

More than fifty people have shown their pride and care for Baltimore’s urban forests by signing up for TreeKeepers. Residents explained they were interested in the classes because they like trees, are interested in acquiring and sharing information about trees and tree care, would like to improve neighborhoods with fewer and/or damaged trees, or have a desire to do civic work.

Photo Credit: BaltimoreTreeTrust.org

Photo Credit: BaltimoreTreeTrust.org

Cunningham’s ultimate goal is “to train people in neighborhoods to take responsibility for basic tree planting and care.”  The TreeKeepers curriculum will also offer higher-level certification classes that requires helping at tree-planting events around the city.

Baltimore has three million trees in the city, 125,000 of them on city streets and in city parks, according to some estimates.

Cunningham  has seen the need for citywide tree care after recent storms, such as Irene and Sandy, resulted in losses to Baltimore’s tree canopy.

“Many simply fell over because the ground was so saturated, but a healthier tree canopy would be more resistant to storms, because air would move more smoothly through the trees,” said Cunningham. “A good, balanced canopy is very important to the growth of a tree.”

The Arbor Day Foundation recognizes the dynamic benefits urban forests offer communities by raising property value, adding aesthetic appeal, lowering temperatures, changing wind patterns, reducing energy use (and costs) and improving air quality.

The Baltimore TreeKeepers are a great example of environmental stewardship, helping to ensure the future sustainability of the city’s urban forests, and providing long-term benefits to the overarching community.

2013 Nature Explore PSA highlights children interacting with nature in outdoor classrooms

The new, 2013 Nature Explore PSA has been posted on the Nature Explore website.

A collaborative effort of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, the mission of the Nature Explore program is to connect children with nature.

Today, children are more disconnected from nature than ever, more likely to spend idle time watching television indoors than running and playing outdoors.  If current trends continue, the next generation will enter adulthood facing greater health challenges, inferior social skills and a diminished conservation ethic.

NEC2With the development of Nature Explore Classrooms, children learn and play outdoors through experiencing the wonders of nature.

These well-designed outdoor spaces provide real-world evidence of the enormous benefit outdoor learning opportunities provide for children.

Proven to be beneficial for children affected by domestic violence, Mary Kay, Inc. has sponsored the development of 17 Nature Explore Classrooms at women’s shelters across the United States.

In urban areas where residents have limited access to nature and no backyards, places like Five Towns Child Care Center in Inwood, N.Y., or the Hooper Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles, Calif., have built Nature Explore Classrooms to provide children and families with a safe place to spend time among grass, flowers, and trees, where children can explore, play, and learn nature’s many lessons.

NEC1There are currently more than a hundred certified Nature Explore Classrooms across the United States and Canada, and the list continues to grow.  As the network of Nature Explore Classrooms expands, the impact on children is also growing.  More children are developing meaningful connections with nature, instilling a lifelong sense of wonder and imagination.

Help connect more youths to the environment by sharing the 2013 Nature Explore PSA and spreading the word about the many benefits children experience when interacting with nature.

TV stations and networks can request the PSAs (:60, :30, :20, :15, :10) in your preferred format by emailing Sean Barry at sbarry@arborday.org.

Watch the 2013 Nature Explore PSA below:

Recycled Christmas trees give back to storm damaged shores

It is February and Valentine’s Day is looming, but the Christmas Spirit of Giving lives on along the shores of Long Beach, N.Y.

Volunteers arranged nearly 3,000 recycled Christmas trees donated by residents and the local Home Depot along the beach with the intended purpose of restoring the protective dunes that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Photo Credit: New York Times

Photo Credit: New York Times

Hurricane Sandy significantly affected the Long Beach locality by washing away about half a million cubic yards of sand, resulting in an elevation loss of three to five feet in some areas along the beach.  Many residents were left dangerously exposed and vulnerable to future storms.

The plan to place the trees in the dunes was proposed by Long Beach residents and approved by city officials. According to the New York Times, “the trees are supposed to catch sand blown by the wind, until gradually the dunes grow up around them.”

Volunteers positioned the trees with their tops facing toward the surf. Officials hope this placement will be the most optimal for catching sand blowing from all directions.

Naturally growing grasses usually prevent and anchor sand from blowing or washing away, but the significant loss of sand has stalled the growth of grass. The recycled Christmas trees will take the place of the lost grasses to encourage the revitalization of natural dunes and plant growth.

States prone to hurricanes, such as the Carolinas and Florida, have been using Christmas trees to restore dunes for years. Additional localities in New York and New Jersey are also recycling Christmas trees to reinforce beaches damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Damaged dunes take two to three years to become fully re-established.

Long Beach residents hope to establish a tradition of adding more recycled Christmas trees every year to keep building up the dunes that act as their first line of defense against inclement weather, and they’re off to a great start.

We hope Long Beach and communities like it continue to heal and be a shining example of the impact and importance of recycling.

Recycling real Christmas trees gives back to the earth all year-round

A previous blog post  emphasized the environmental, economical and social benefits of purchasing a real Christmas tree over an artificial one.

Photo Credit: Cross Timbers Gazette

As the season comes to a close, we thought we would highlight some environmentally friendly ways to dispose of real Christmas trees and give back to the earth.

It is important to recycle real Christmas trees because they contain valuable nutrients that can be used in other capacities like compost or mulch.

According to Earth911, a website that specializes in providing consumers recycling information, some of the main uses for post-harvest, recycled trees include the following:

  • Chipping (used for various things, from mulch to hiking trails)
  • Beachfront erosion prevention and river delta sedimentation management
  • Lake and river shoreline stabilization including fish habitat

The methods for recycling a real Christmas tree can vary depending on where you live, so it is important to be knowledgeable of your community’s tree recycling processes and rules.

Photo Credit:
Richmond District

The three most common options available for recycling your Christmas tree are curbside pick-up, drop-off programs and do-it yourself projects.

The most convenient (but not always available) option is curbside pick-up. In neighborhoods where this method is offered, it is important that Christmas tree owners follow neighborhood guidelines to ensure that their tree does not get picked up with the regular trash collection and end up in a landfill.

Photo Credit:
Record-Courier

Drop-off programs are only available for a limited time after the holidays but offer a one stop solution for tree recycling needs. Real Christmas trees can be dropped off at specified collection sites as long as they are completely free of all decorations. It is important to note that trees that have been flocked with fake snow are usually not eligible for recycling programs.

Finally, there is always the do-it-yourself option. Live Christmas trees can be chopped into firewood or used for home projects and crafts. For some households, they can be used as natural water habitats when placed in a pond or body of water.

You can visit Earth911’s database to find the Christmas tree recycling solution closest to you.

Approval of urban farm in Detroit sparks controversy yet offers promise

In September I wrote about Detroit, Michigan, and a new campaign to repurpose vacant parcels of land into urban farmland and revitalize the local ecosystem.

According to the New York Times, entrepreneur John Hantz offered to purchase 140 acres of abandoned land in Detroit to clear the empty lots of debris and plant roughly 15,000 hardwood trees. Hantz and his colleagues have said their plans for the land will increase economic activity, raise property values and add to the city’s tax base.

Support for this method of repurposing some of Detroit’s vacant lots is mixed.  Many agree that urban farming would diversify the city and be a more beneficial use of the land space, which currently supports foreclosed homes and crumbling buildings.  But some residents and city officials view the transaction as a land grab that Hantz will use for his own benefit.

Nevertheless, on December 11, the Detroit City Council approved the sale of the land to Hantz in a 5-4 vote.

A website developed to detail Hantz’s proposal states his intentions to transform blight to beauty, convert abandoned properties to fields for new agricultural production, create jobs and strengthen the city’s budget.  Hantz has witnessed the deterioration of Detroit over the years and says he wants his farm to not only be used for agricultural production, but also as an open area the community can experience and appreciate.

Additionally, Hantz plans to plant trees and encourage neighbors to enjoy their beauty and learn about the importance of urban trees, including how they can be used as a sustainable and profitable resource.

Photo taken from City Farm, a successful urban farm located in Chicago

Although it remains to be seen how the land will be developed, community participation will be important for the overall success of this project.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture advocates that active involvement from area residents  in projects like these is key to building an empowered, successful and more satisfied community.

Through its Tree City USA and Tree Line USA programs, the Arbor Day Foundation understands the positive impact urban forestry has on cities worldwide and therefore sees the potential benefits Hantz’s urban farm can have in the community.  There is significant promise in Detroit’s effort to build a new, green economy.

Real Christmas trees offer economical, environmental and social benefits

Christmas trees have had a long history in the United States, beginning in the 1800s when they were introduced by German settlers.

Since then, Christmas trees have become a major commercial industry. But, in recent years, more and more families are facing a dilemma between purchasing a real or artificial Christmas tree.

Photo Credit: ChooseAndCut.com

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) approximates that nearly 25-30 million live Christmas trees are sold every year.  However, according to the Wall Street Journal, consumers will spend about $1 billion on artificial trees that primarily come from overseas.

Real Christmas trees, in comparison, are grown at Christmas tree farms in all 50 states, contributing not only to local state economies, but also helping keep family farms from being converted to other uses.

Many people are under the mistaken assumption that fake trees are more environmentally responsible than chopping down live trees, which is simply not the case.  According to NCTA, “Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.”

Photo Credit: BellyAcresNJ.com

As the Arbor Day Foundation points out in its November-December newsletter, fresh cut Christmas trees are a renewable, recyclable and sustainable resource that sequesters carbon and helps clean the air while protecting soil and wildlife habitat.  For every Christmas tree harvested, NCTA says 1-3 new seedlings for the following spring are planted, estimating that presently there are close to 350 million real Christmas trees being grown at U.S. Christmas tree farms.

Photo Credit: KVBPR.com

Along with the many environmental and economical benefits, real Christmas trees also offer the social benefits of a memorable holiday tradition, introducing young children to nature, and encouraging family togetherness. Many Christmas tree farms even offer wagon rides, refreshments and other attractions to make the experience of selecting the perfect Christmas tree for your family unforgettable.

If you would like to find the Christmas tree farm closest to you, you can visit NCTA’s Tree Locator tool.

For more information about real Christmas trees such as selection, care, and recycling tips please visit NCTA’s website.

Tree-planting in Richmond improves public safety through beautification

Trees are being planted in Richmond, California faster than landscape architects can track, count, and map to assess the city’s further arbor needs.

Photo Credit: Richmond Confidential

Over the past month alone, scores of volunteers have come together to plant more than one hundred trees in Richmond soil.

In exchange for learning proper planting practices and weekly watering efforts, the Richmond community is rewarded with shade, increased property value, reduced pollution, slowing traffic, and lower crime.

For a community that has struggled with crime over the years, these benefits are significant. In a recent news article, Richmond’s Police Chief Chris Magnus commended young volunteers for improving community and neighborhood safety through beautification. Magnus advocates:

An attractive neighborhood enhanced by the natural beauty of trees sends a message that the people who live there care and are engaged with what’s going on around them. This helps decrease crime and improves safety for all residents.

Research has linked increased tree-planting to decreased crime rates in other communities as well. Baltimore, Md., experienced a 12 percent drop in crime after a ten percent tree canopy increase and neighborhoods in Camden, N.J., are now considered highly desirable places to live thanks to newly-planted trees.

Photo Credit: Richmond Confidential

The benefits of tree planting extend from a broad environmental level to a personal, human level as well. Richmond volunteers express a sense of pride and ownership seeing trees in the community that exist thanks to their planting efforts. A student volunteer described the satisfaction of walking past trees she planted at a local high school as, “I did that, that’s my tree.”

Richmond Parks and Recreation officials honor volunteers for their individual roles as “guardian of the forest,” encouraging them to cherish the positive impact each person’s efforts has on the city of Richmond.

After receiving a $10,000 grant over the summer, tree-planting groups and volunteers in Richmond are continuing to positively change the future of the city, improving the social and environmental state of the community by planting trees.

100-year-old oak tree relocated instead of destroyed

The saying, “Out with the old, in with the new” usually signifies a refreshing change.  In some cases, however, the “old” should be treasured.

Photo Credit: Grist.org

Instead of cutting down a hundred-year-old oak tree to make room for improvements, the city council in League City, Texas voted to relocate the tree 1,500 feet from its original location to neighboring parkland.

It took contractors just under a month to properly prepare and transport the 56-foot tree weighing nearly 260 tons to its new location.

The process involved pruning, fertilizing, and hydrating the oak tree, sampling soil, and creating a large, hand carved, planter-box at the base of the tree to contain and protect its roots.

Photo Credit: Leaguecity.com

Once the tree box was completed, four steel beams were placed underneath the box and two cranes lifted the apparatus onto a steel plate.  It took three bulldozers and two excavators to then pull and guide the oak tree along a grass corridor to its home.

Moving can cause a lot of stress for a tree but so far, the old oak tree has been doing well in its new location.

Older trees are often mistakenly labeled as hazard trees and subsequently chopped down.  In a public place such as a park, it is the responsibility of city officials or tree  managers to exercise care, good judgment, caution, and foresight when inspecting trees and determining them necessary for removal.

By relocating, instead of destroying a healthy, older tree, League City shows its commitment to its urban forest and has honored the value and history that trees bring to a community.

You can read more about moving the 100-year-old oak here.

Check out the incredible video of the moving process below.

Greening of Detroit singles out potential for urban trees to revitalize local ecosystem

The environment is playing a significant role in the resurgence of Detroit and Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of the nonprofit agency, Greening of Detroit, is a big part of the movement.

Greening’s mission statement has evolved over the years from specifically addressing replanting needs, to addressing the various needs of Detroit’s ecosystem.  The Greening of Detroit has filled several needs by creating planting and educational programs and encouraging environmental leadership and advocacy in the area.

In a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press, Witt explains that Greening’s forestry department has progressed to a green infrastructure department.  “Tree planting obviously is always going to be at the heart of what [this department] does,” stated Witt, “but they’re looking much more broadly at the ecosystem services that trees and forestry can provide, and they’re doing a lot of other things as well.”

Photo Credit: Greening of Detroit

The Greening of Detroit has broadened its methods from “classic tree planting,” to planting that will better utilize  the benefits of every tree; such as planting for stormwater retention and planting large, dense blocks of trees to remediate soil contamination.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted a new campaign for Detroit to repurpose vacant parcels of land into urban farmland.  Rebecca Witt is enthusiastic and prepared for the Greening of Detroit to take on similar opportunities for securing Detroit’s ecosystem, asserting:

That’s a pretty incredible thing to be able to think of a major American city that really could have an ecosystem that could support itself and all of its people in a way that is sustainable for the long term.

Some potential plans for Detroit include planting oak trees and maybe fruit orchards.

The Arbor Day Foundation avidly promotes the intrinsic benefits of urban trees. The work going on in Detroit isolates the potential of urban trees to revitalize a struggling community and establish a sustainable industry.

The Arbor Day Foundation agrees with research that explains the benefits of trees for stormwater retention. Rain refreshes and nourishes green landscape.  But as cities grow and tree cover is lost, so is the absorbing effect of plant life and soil.  Trees and vegetated infrastructure prevent costly stormwater runoff from polluting waterways with oil, heavy metal particles and other harmful substances.

Click here for a visual depiction of a city water system with few trees, and one with abundant trees.

Nonprofits like the Greening of Detroit are making huge impact and filling the inherent need for effective urban forestry tree planting and environmental care in communities nationwide.