Wood Fossils Show Ancient Antarctica was home to Exotic Forests

Trees in Antarctica? The idea of forests at the South Pole may be somewhat of an unusual idea to the cold climates Antarctica boasts; but new research suggests that tropical trees once grew in the region. An article published by the Huffington Post earlier this month explained how the recent discovery of wood fossils suggests that Antarctica was once home to carpeted forests.

Let’s rewind 250 million years to the Permian and early Triassic period. The world was alot warmer than it is today, so the idea may not be that foreign. The question, said Patricia Ryberg, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, is how plants coped with photosynthesizing constantly for part of the year and then not at all when the winter sun set. Since Antarctica was still at high latitude, the region experienced round-the-clock darkness in the winter and 24/7 light in the summer.

A fossilized tree trunk protrudes through ice near Antarctica’s Mount Achernar. | Patricia Ryberg

Ryberg and her colleagues gathered samples of leaf impressions and discovered mats of leaves, implying signs of a deciduous forest. What’s interesting about that finding is that samples of fossil wood were also taken and tree rings were examined to reveal that the trees looked evergreen.   “Now we have leaves that suggest a deciduous habit and fossil wood that is suggesting an evergreen habit, so we have a bit of a contradiction going on,” Ryberg said.

Follow-up studies analyzing carbon molecules in the fossil wood also gives both deciduous and evergreen answers, Ryberg said. The implication is that ancient Antarctic forests may have been a mix of deciduous and evergreen.

Tropical trees growing in the Arctic? Not so unusual after all.

Street Trees Boost Home Sales Price

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal wrote about the value of street trees — those planted between the sidewalk and the road — in increasing the sales price of a home.

houses prop valueIn the study featured — “Trees in the city: Valuing street trees in Portland, Ore.” — 2,608 single family home sales in Portland, Oregon, from July 1, 2006 to April 26, 2007 were analyzed.

Key findings from the research:

  • Homes with street trees sold for $7,130 more, on average, and 1.7 days more quickly
  • Neighboring houses within 100 feet of street trees sold for $1,688 more each, on average
  • The sale premium of having street trees was the same as adding 129 square feet of finished space

 

Trees for Bees

Photo credit: Flickr, Emilian Robert Vicol

Photo credit: Flickr, Emilian Robert Vicol

You’ve probably heard more buzz about bees than usual lately—from unexplained deaths en masse to faltering fruit crops in their absence. One thing you’ve probably learned is that bees are important (if not essential) components to multitudes of ecosystems around the world: particularly ones that produce much of our food.

Why are bees so important?

When we think of bees, we typically think of their use in the production of honey and beeswax. Perhaps you’ve heard of the medicinal uses for bee venom—which has been used for treating arthritis, multiple sclerosis and even fibromyalgia, and more recently to treat cancer, epilepsy and depression.

While these are incredibly important functions, bees, and honeybees in particular, have a much more wide-reaching impact than many of us realize. “Typically, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these under-appreciated workers pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops which constitute 1/3 of everything we eat. Losing them could affect not only dietary staples such as apples, broccoli, strawberries, nuts, asparagus, blueberries and cucumbers, but may threaten our beef and dairy industries if alfalfa is not available for feed,” says Maria Boland, of Mother Nature Network. One Cornell University study estimated that honeybees annually pollinate $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the U.S. The University of Arizona has determined more than 100 different agricultural crops in the U.S. are pollinated by bees.

While the root causes of the problem of the great bee disappearance are still being determined (experts suggest harmful pesticides or harmful pesticide exposure, viruses and poor nutrition play large roles, in addition to ever-decreasing habitat/food sources), the issue of what proactive measures to take remains. Outside of donning a beekeeper mask/gear and cultivating hives of one’s own (which is certainly an option, though it’s not for everyone), what can a person do to help these productive members of our planet?

Luckily, there are many things.

  • Avoid spraying plants in bloom and apply chemicals after bees have returned to their colonies at night. The best way to conserve pollinators, according to the Xerces Society, is to avoid pesticides altogether.
  • Where possible, plant or maintain regionally native plant species—in general, they are able to support a larger number of species than non-native plants and often have a higher habitat or food value…especially for bees. Some native bee species are “specialists” and forage only a few specific native plants. Also, single-flowered plants (which are closer to their natural form) are better for bees than double-or triple-flowered ornamental and fruit trees.
  • Provide nesting sites for our native bees in your landscape by leaving areas of your yard or garden undisturbed and uncultivated. These bees are solitary or nest in very small numbers with different nesting requirements from the large hives created by European honeybees.
  • Plant a mix of trees and shrubs that are rich sources of both nectar and pollen, as bees need both for proper nutrition. (Don’t have space for any more trees? Planting crocus, anise hyssop, bee balm and asters in your perennial garden can be of great service to bees, too).
  • When creating the plan for or adding to your garden/yard, use a diversity of plant species with a succession of blooms from early spring through fall…this provides foraging bees with steady sources of nutrition. Clumping plants of the same species into a small area attracts more bees than individual or widely scattered plants.

Bee-friendly spring blossoms:

(Very early bloom time): Maple, Willow, Elm, Hybrid Hazelnut, Almond, and Oak

(Early to later bloom time): Crabapple , Apple, Cherry, Plum (and most other fruit trees), Hickory, Redbud, Sassafras, Tupelo, and Native Mesquite

Bee-friendly summer blossoms:

(Very early bloom time): American Mountainash, Catalpa, Viburnum, Blackberry, Blueberry, Raspberry

(Early to later bloom time): Sourwood, Baswood, Littleleaf Linden, Elderberry, Rose and Native Mesquite (second bloom period)

Bee-friendly fall/winter blossoms:

Franklin Tree, California Laurel, Potentilla, Blue Mist Shrub, Bodnant Viburnum, Seven-Son Flower, Sunflower and Aster

What are you doing to help out our pollinator friends or what would you like to do? Leave your comments below.

Sources:

Inside Look: How Community Nonprofits are using the Arbor Day Foundation Volunteer Center

When The Minnesota Project staff received a phone call from a local fruit tree owner in October 2008 with an excessive amount of apples, they knew they had been presented with an opportunity. As they took a look around their community, they began to grasp how much unpicked and fallen fruit from both orchards and backApplesyards was going to waste. The organization began to take a closer look at how they could distribute this fruit to meet community needs.

Five years later, the Fruits of the City program matched 160 fruit tree owners and 16 orchards with groups of trained volunteers who pick the un-wanted, un-harvested fruit. These volunteers then deliver the fruit to local food shelves, which are often unable to access fresh produce.

The Minnesota Project is using the Arbor Day Foundation Volunteer Center  to recruit volunteers for the Fruits of the City program.

Jared Walhowe, Gleaning Manager, is pleased with how the project has grown. “Despite last year’s drought, our volunteers collected a record of 40,000 pounds of apples and pears, which we then distributed to 31 food shelves and 3 food banks.”

Treating Trees: Good Advice from a Girl Scout

Here at the Arbor Day Foundation, we have members, advocates, and supporters from all walks of life, representing all corners of the globe, and encompassing all ages.

In part, that’s because the good work of planting and caring for trees spans all boundaries – physical, geographical, socio-economic, and many others.

And we love hearing from these advocates. They’re caring, passionate people who lead interesting lives and who have wonderful stories to tell.

This week, our Member Services team received an email from a young lady in Newark, New Jersey, named Victoria Ribeiro.

Girl ScoutsVictoria is a high school-aged girl scout who is working on earning a Gold Award, the highest award given by the Girl Scouts of America. All Gold Award projects must begin with identifying an issue about which the scout is passionate and end with educating and inspiring others on the topic.

Clearly, Victoria is passionate about trees, and we can honestly say we were inspired by her work. Her Gold Award project, an educational PowerPoint presentation entitled Treating Trees, “…seeks to educate the residents of the city of Newark so that they will be able to identify hazardous trees.”

A scene from a Newark, New Jersey, neighborhood following Hurricane Sandy. Ribeiro's presentation seeks to inform people of what to do with hazardous trees in their neighborhoods.

A scene from a Newark, New Jersey, neighborhood following Hurricane Sandy. Ribeiro’s presentation seeks to inform people of what to do with hazardous trees in their neighborhoods.

Victoria’s email continued: “I must make my project have a global/national impact. I looked at your website and saw that [the Arbor Day Foundation] didn’t really have any program that the residents of a city could help identify trees and make his/her community a better place to live. I am emailing you in the hopes that you may possibly create a program similar to mine to make other neighborhoods a safer and better place to live.”

Victoria, we commend you on your excellent presentation and how you’re helping to educate your fellow citizens on trees and tree care. We’re proud to share your work with others who can learn from it for greener, healthier neighborhoods — in Newark and beyond.

Thank you for sharing your passion for trees, and we wish you much succes on your way to earning the Gold Award.

Download your own copy of Victoria’s Treating Trees presentation.

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Forest Stewardship: A Tribute to our Fallen Heroes

At the Arbor Day Foundation, our hearts and prayers are with the families of the Arizona Wildland Firefighters.

Our forests belong to all of us, and we share an indebtedness to the courageous men and women who fight fires in our forests, including the 19 members of the elite Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Arizona HotshotsTheir passing is an all-too-poignant reminder that wildland firefighters’ public service includes putting their lives on the line to protect America’s natural resources.

We thank them for their selfless service and honor their memory.

We need our forests to be healthy — not only to provide clean air and water and wildlife habitat, but also to be resilient to the damage that wildland fires cause. With higher temperatures, drought, forest disease and pests, and severe weather events, we won’t be able to prevent the increasing threat of fire.

Yet, we can plant trees to bring forests back to health. Forest stewardship is one way we can pay tribute to our fallen heroes.

> Plant Trees in Memory of a loved one 

Next stage of green roof sprouts over downtown Lincoln

Green Roof Project - Lincoln, NELast week, Arbor Day Foundation employees took to their office rooftop with plants and vines in hand, ready to bring the next stage of their green roof project to fruition.

The first installment of the green roof took shape nearly three years ago at 12th and P Streets in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, when workers installed 7,369 square feet of green roof and planted it in sedum and native grasses. Read more…

Summer storms keep disaster recovery top of mind

Strong storms, tornadoes, and wildfires have rocked communities all across the U.S. this spring and summer, leaving paths of destruction in their wake.

In the past few weeks alone, thousands of acres have burned in Southern California and New Mexico. Oklahoma and Texas each have seen rampant devastation by multiple tornadoes – some bringing the strongest winds ever recorded. And with the 2013 tropical storm season now officially underway, climatologists are predicting more and stronger storms for the coasts this summer. Read more…

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.