A Man and His Forest

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the problems of the world — to think that, despite all good intentions, one person cannot really change things. One story we’d like to share is a perfect counterpoint—how one person can make a tremendous difference to the people and the planet. Stories like this renew the urgency and importance of our work at the Arbor Day Foundation and inspire us all to continue to make a measurable positive difference.

Moved to action after seeing the effects a monsoon had on the wildlife of his river island home, Jadav Payeng, then only 16 years old, decided that he was going to do something about it. The area, a barren wasteland on the Jorhat sandbar in the Brahmaputra River, had been steadily washing away and was predicted by scientists to simply vanish  in as little as 15-20 years. Payeng began planting seeds in the sand in an effort to do something—anything—to help restore this place that so many humans and animals had called home.  Thirty years later, Payeng has reforested more than 1,350 hectares of land: a plot larger than New York’s Central Park.

A short documentary film recently celebrated the news of Payeng’s incredible accomplishment.

Our vision at the Arbor Day Foundation is to become a leader in creating worldwide recognition and use of trees as part of the solution to global issues. Payeng, who singlehandedly planted a forest where once there was nothing, is a living embodiment of this vision:

He is helping to combat climate change by restoring the land of his island, making it more resilient to rising sea level and resistant to erosion and effectively combating what would have been its eventual disappearance from the face of the earth.

He is actively reversing biodiversity loss through his reforestation work by recreating habitat and bringing species like tigers, rhinos (the Royal Bengal tiger and one-horned rhino being some of the endangered species), elephants, vultures, migratory birds and others back to the area.

He is strategizing for the sustainable preservation of his forest area with his plan to plant coconut trees: which may help alleviate hunger as well as provide a potential economic boon to the area and mitigate poverty.

It can be overwhelming to think of all of the challenges facing the world, and to think, ‘what could I, as one person do?’

Payeng may have thought that same question to himself, and he answered it by planting a tree.

Tour Des Trees

Last week, Arbor Day Foundation staff members Pete Smith and Matt Harris rode in the Tour Des Trees bicycle ride through Wisconsin as Team Arbor Day. During the seven day, 585 mile trek, Pete kept a journal recapping the day’s events.

Day 1: Milwaukee to Madison

petematt bikeWith a windy spring and summer in Lincoln, my training has taught me one useful lesson: the ride home is a lot more fun if you begin by heading into the wind.

Today’s 92-mile stage didn’t provide that, since Madison lies directly west of Milwaukee and we stared down a relentless 25-mph headwind for the entire day.

We made a brief stop in Waukesha (a Tree City USA community) for a tree planting ceremony. We concluded our night with dinner and a movie at the University of Wisconsin-Madison arboretum, where we dedicated a tree to the memory of the parents of Wisconsin state forestry coordinator, Dick Rideout.

Day 2: Madison to Wisconsin Dells

group treeAfter a tree dedication at the state capitol, we rode through the UW-Madison campus to trails that led out of town before our first climb up the Blue Mounds. The rocky hills were untouched by the Wisconsin Ice Sheet that ground down most of the surrounding landscape, and posed a steep challenge for our tour riders. Our tour director Paul called this stage the Queen’s Day— homage to the famous tour in France each July, referring to the toughest day on the tour. From the fast decent from Blue Mound State Park, we rolled through bucolic farmland and past wooded hillsides, to the toughest climbs of the day up to and out of Devil’s Lake State Park. Steep, switchback roads that refused to show an end in sight, pulling our modest peloton apart and stretching riders for miles.

But all who wanted to were able to finish the 105 miles of all that Wisconsin has to offer in natural beauty!

Day 3: Wisconsin Dells to Stevens Point

flowersWisconsin has already shown us many of her natural wonders, from bucolic farmland to wooded hills to wind and rain, but today she showed her milder side. We headed north along the Wisconsin River to Stevens Point.

Professor Elwood Pricklethorn’s (aka fellow rider, Warren Hoselton) lunchtime lesson to the children of Nekoosa on the wonders of photosynthesis was a big hit! So was the stop for ice cream near the end of our 87-mile “active recovery” day. We visited the UW-Stevens Point – a Tree Campus USA recognized campus for dinner—which graduates more students in urban forestry than anywhere else. We dedicated a tree to longtime professor Bob Miller with a ceremonial “watering” using Wisconsin’s finest!

Day 4: Stevens Point to Green Bay

giant hambAfter a tree dedication with local scouts, we found our way east along quiet country roads, past country chapels, gently descending all the way to Green Bay on a perfect summer day.

Our 100-mile effort was the fastest of the week so far, with our small group averaging 17 mph–up considerably from the 13 mph efforts of the first two days! Fair and gentle winds, flat terrain and good roads with light traffic made this century a memorable one.

Seymour, WI, claims to be the home of the first hamburger, memorialized in large form just at the edge of town. And as a nightcap, we toured the not-so-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  And if the bus shows up to take us back to the hotel, I may even get some sleep tonight!

Day 5: Green Bay to Sturgeon Bay

911 tree plantingToday’s weather brought back memories of the day we left DC in 2001 after the National Urban Forestry Conference, only to be followed a couple days later by the tragedy of 9/11. The urban forestry community lost one of our own that day, Christine Snyder, who boarded Flight 93 and perished in a field in Pennsylvania. Joined by the city forester and mayor, we planted a tree at Tree City USA community Green Bay’s 9/11 memorial to honor all those we lost that day, a sapling grown from one of the only trees to emerge from the rubble of the twin towers at Ground Zero–a flowering pear tree.

A short recovery ride for most, a paltry 60 miles to the hotel.

But a hardy few of us took the scenic “bonus miles” tour of Door County to peek out along the shores of Lake Michigan, an additional 27 miles!

Day 6: Sturgeon Bay to Port Washington

lakeThere was a great deal of anticipation for today’s ride south, partly because it’s almost the end of the tour, but mostly because our legs are tired and the stage was 120 miles long.

Many riders left early to avoid being taken off the road at 5pm— myself included—watching the hazy sun rise above the glass-smooth surface of Sturgeon Bay. With Lake Michigan on our left the entire day, mostly clear skies and light winds, our progress was hampered only by our appetites–amply satisfied at each rest stop!

I want to pause to recognize the great work of Dick Rideout, the state urban forestry coordinator for the Wisconsin DNR. Dick has made the Tree City USA program the bedrock for community forestry in his state, and we witnessed his guiding hand as we rolled through dozens of Tree City USA communities along our tour. We heard mayors sing the praises of their city forester, in Madison, Stevens Point and Green Bay. They know what trees mean to their community and the importance of the TREE Fund. We riders are proud to represent the professions of arboriculture and urban forestry at the many events we conduct along our route.

Day 7: Port Washington to Milwaukee

group challengeOur final day is as much pomp-and-circumstance as it is a bike ride, just a short 42-mile “noodle” through leafy lakeside suburbs, staging at several spots to keep the 80+ riders together for the mass roll-in at the International Tree Climbing Championships being held at Mount Mary University. We had time for group photos of the various teams, as well as those sponsored by the various ISA chapters. We can be grateful for having the strength of mind and legs to pedal through more than 600 miles on behalf of the TREE Fund. As donors, you helped all of us raise more than $513,000 to support tree research and education projects around the country!

We can bask in the glory of rolling into the climbing championships to the cheers and applause of the real athletes of the day–those climbing arborists who work daily to care for our urban trees. This is the joy we share with one another, brought together by the love of trees and riding bicycles.

Epilogue

It seems like eons ago we left Milwaukee headed west. Time and miles melt away, leaving us with precious memories…and friends, both new and old. This was my third consecutive tour and I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. I could tell when I filled out the informal awards ballot on Thursday night and knew who the “Most Improved Rider” (Laurie Skul) and the “Best New Rider” (Karen Jenkins) were. I think I could recite Professor Pricklethorn’s tree blessing in my sleep! These are my friends. Now and forever. I am indebted to them–and to you, dear sponsor for your support–and I offer my hand and a hug to you all…. Until next year, and the Sunshine State, I remain… Your friend in trees, Pete

Can the Latest Advancement in Urban Infrastructure Benefit Your City?

One of the most common problems urban trees face is having sufficient soil and space to properly grow. Crowded cities make it challenging to mimic the natural environment in which trees thrive. Thanks to emerging green technology, cities are beginning to implement greener practices in construction that are saving cities tree repair costs down the road and creating a healthier setting for trees to grow.

silvaCell2[1]

Silva cells allow water and nutrients to reach tree roots through loose soil.

Ordinarily when trees are planted in metropolitan settings they are buried under hard surfaces such as sidewalks and roads. These surfaces have to be robust enough to handle heavy vehicles. Naturally, the result of such weight is soil compaction. Soil compaction constricts water, air, and nutrients from reaching the roots, stunting the growth of trees and even leading to structural failures.

In 2007 DeepRoot introduced the Silva cell —the first commercially available soil containment system to be used in construction that supports heavy asphalt surfaces without compacting soil surrounding tree roots — a breakthrough in urban infrastructure.

So how does it work?

photo 4

Silva cells being installed in Lincoln, NE

The rigid frame is designed like a modular suspended pavement by transferring above ground loads down to a compacted sub-base while the inside of the system is filled with loose soil for roots to access. In addition to the loose soil, the system also acts as a stormwater management system, absorbing runoff and storing a large amount of water, creating an underground rain garden.

While the technology is new and still evolving, there have been more than 500 installations of Silva cells in 10 different countries. The results have been outstanding with reports of healthy tree growth, including longer bud extensions and trees flourishing to full maturity.

Lincoln, Nebraska is participating in the trend with four installations of Silva Cells at construction sites, including near the Arbor Day Foundation headquarter offices.

Is your city installing Silva cells? What other approaches is your city implementing to promote healthy urban and community forests? You may also enjoy reading our How to Save Trees During Construction, a Tree City USA Bulletin.

 

The Importance of Urban and Community Forests During Summer Storm Season

Natural disasters have a tendency to be intrusive in the least of welcome places. A city can never be fully equipped to combat the consequences of such devastation. As the anniversary of the destructive floods that overtook parts of Colorado approaches, we reflect on what communities can do to reduce the economic and environmental scars left behind from such disasters.

Tree Line StA dense tree canopy can help reduce flooding during times of heavy rain. The Tree City USA program serves as a practical guideline for cities desiring to maintain a healthy community and urban forest.

Trees serve as sponges during rainfall, soaking up rainwater. So when there are fewer trees there is more stormwater runoff. When shrubs and trees are planted along waterways they slow down flood waters, filter runoff from land, and reduce erosion in erosion-prone rivers. Check out our Trees Tame Stormwater interactive poster for a visual of how much a robust tree canopy helps a city during a storm.

Without trees, the rivers would eat away at adjoining property and fill reservoirs with silt. In addition, untreated sewage can flow into waterways, contaminating water supply and destroying natural habitat. Adding heavy rain into the mix only creates more stress and water overflow for the city.

Flat surfaces also contribute to flooding, especially in areas where trees are absent. Street puddleWhen heavy rain falls and storm drains reach capacity, rainwater has nowhere to go so it sits along streets and sidewalks accumulating in volume and damaging property.

If your community has a strong community and urban forestry program in practice than it is one step closer to mitigating stormwater runoff. To qualify as a Tree City USA community, a town or city must meet four standards established by the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters. The Tree City USA program is a key component of a healthy urban and community forestry program.

Is your community a Tree City USA recognized community?

August is Tree Check Month: Is your tree safe from Asian Long-horned Beetle?

Similar to undergoing an annual health physical or performing routine maintenance on your car, it’s important to carry out routine tree checks to maintain healthy trees. Trees are susceptible to pest infestation and disease, and if you neglect looking after them the result can be detrimental to the natural habitat. The latest outbreak is the Asian Long-horned Beetle, with reports from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Ohio. With August being Tree Check Month, we encourage you to check your trees for signs of Asian Long-horned Beetle (ALB).

7109590833_ac895c61e4[1]ALB was first detected in the United States in Brooklyn, New York in 1996. ALB is a large, bullet-shaped beetle with long antennae and elongated feet. Adult beetles emerge throughout the summer and early fall. Female beetles can lay up to 160 eggs in a 10-15 day time-span. When the eggs hatch the larvae tunnel into the tree and pupate. This disrupts the tree’s natural cycle of transpiration which results in the tree drying out and dying.

ALB is a serious threat to trees because once a tree is infested the only way of eliminating ALB is by destroying and removing the tree. Damage from infestations in New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts has resulted in the removal of tens of thousands of trees; not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars it has cost State and Federal governments in forestry management. This pest likes deciduous hardwood trees such as maple, birch, elm, poplar and several others. Once the beetle finds a healthy tree to nestle in it leaves its mark through dime-sized exit holes, shallow bark scars, and frass—sawdust-like material on the ground or tree branches.

A heavily infested maple tree with many exit holes.

Asian Long-horned Beetles eat through tree wood, leaving behind round exit holes.

There aren’t any effective treatments of preventing ALB, other than containment. It’s important to identify when a tree is infested because ALB spreads easily. While treatment applications or insecticides with the active ingredient imidacloprid may help protect non-infested trees and reduce ALB populations, it is not guaranteed to prevent trees from infestation. Even treated trees can fall victim to ALB.

You can help prevent the spread of ALB by burning firewood where you buy it—ALB can survive hidden in firewood— diversifying the type of trees you plant— especially if you’re in a quarantined area— conducting an annual tree check, allowing officials to survey your area, and reporting signs of tree damage or spotting beetles resembling ALB.

You might find our Help Stop Insect and Disease Invasions bulletin to be especially helpful during your August tree check. Check out this map to learn if your area is at risk of the ALB infestation.

Proper summer watering of trees

Summer has an intriguing way of luring in longer days, sunnier skies, and vibrant landscapes. For many, summer is a calming retreat after enduring what felt like an endless winter. Naturally, with heat waves we feel inclined to water our trees regularly, but it’s easy to get carried away and over-water. While we have suffered through drought conditions here in the Heartland, other areas have had to deal with heavy rainfall, even flooding. The following are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when watering your trees.

With differing climates and varying landscapes, it’s hard to quantify how much water trees need because irrigation will vary from one species to the next. Young trees and those transplanted will call for more water because they’re burning lots of energy establishing their roots in the soil.

Hose_deepwater[1]For young trees we encourage a deep-watering by running the hose over the root zone for about 30 seconds. The idea is to reach the full root depth and keep the soil damp, not soggy. Mature trees are best left to nature; unless you’re suffering from severe drought conditions, let your rainfall do the watering. Be cautious not to overwater, as it can drown the tree roots. If a puddle remains after watering then take it as a sign of too much watering. Other signs to look for include yellow leaves, usually starting on the lower branches, wilting, brittle green leaves, or fungus growing on soil surface. If your soil is wet and you notice any of these changes, you may be overwatering your trees.

Ooze-TubeGallons_1-885[1]A soil probe is helpful in learning how dry or saturated your soil is and can set the tone for watering frequency.You can also test soil moisture by hand. If a planting site is properly hydrated you should be able to compress the soil into a ball that will crumble when gently rolled between the palms of your hands. No need to dig deep, one to two and a half inches below ground level is sufficient in testing the moisture content.

Ooze tubes—an automated drip irrigation system— are another great method for controlling water time and ensuring your trees are receiving adequate water.

Mulching is a great practice to implement in tree care, especially if you’re dealing with drought conditions. Mulch retains water, helping to keep roots moist. DSC00575_000[1]Another tip to avoid drying out soil during times of drought is to stay away from commercial potting soils and fertilizers. Salts and other additives in fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro can cause root burn, adding additional stress to trees. Proper tree pruning improves limb stability and structure, and removes dead branches, which decreases tree tension and allows water to move where needed most in the tree.  Also, avoid digging holes in the ground as an effort to water deeply; it will only dry out the roots even more.

With your help, the season of sun can work in favor of your trees. You can read up on other great ways to save water in our How to Landscape to Save Water Tree City USA bulletin. What other tips do you practice in keeping trees appropriately watered during the summer season?

The dish on dirt: why soil is important to tree health

Have you ever planted multiple trees or shrubs at the same time and noticed one variety flourishing while the other has no progress? There are numerous factors that could be affecting your plant health, including soil. It’s not uncommon to overlook soil care while planting if you’re new to the green scene. We become so caught up with tree care above ground that we forget what’s happening below is just as important. Since trees grow from the ground up, it’s essential to understand their relationship with soil and the role soil plays on tree health. Using the wrong type of soil, or neglecting to use healthy soil altogether, can be detrimental and cost you your trees.

What works for your pink dogwood trees won’t necessarily work for your blueberry bushes. You see, each tree calls for a different soil type, the most common being sandy, silt, and clay. landsoils1[1]Soils vary from one location to the next. When high-quality soil isn’t present you can mix soils to change textures and create a soil more suitable for planting. Sandy soil has larger particles and a rough texture. Since the soil base is loose it’s harder to retain moisture, making it harder for plants to access nutrients. Silt is comprised of fine particles and has a smooth, slippery texture. Its tight compaction can serve as an advantage in retaining moisture and nutrients, or a problem if planted with the wrong tree.  Clay is the most tightly packed soil with little air space; as a result it makes it difficult for air and moisture to penetrate the soil.

Iron_Chlorosis576[1]

Signs of Chlorosis are typical of a nutrient deficiency.

Soil performs five essential functions; using the wrong type of soil or unhealthy soil can impede tree health by constricting roots from accessing the water and nutrients necessary. Soil helps regulate water, supports biodiversity, filters pollutants, provides physical support, and cycles nutrients. You can understand why attempting to plant a tree that requires less soil saturation may not thrive if it’s planted in silt or clay soil. Signs of unhealthy soil include leaf discoloration, brittle limbs, and even stunted tree growth.

roots

Exposed roots pose as a threat to tree health.

It’s also important to dig a hole deep enough for tree roots to grow. Planting in shallow soil makes tree roots more susceptible to exposure which can lead to tree stress and even toppling due to wind gusts. If you have bedrock near the surface of your soil that prevents you from digging deep you might consider mixing in top soil to add depth.

Plant growth is directly influenced by soil conditions. That’s not to say that if your plants show these signs that it’s a result of poor soil. Several varying factors go into tree health and soil care is one of them to keep in mind while planting young trees.

What tips do you have in maintaining healthy soil for planting?

References:

USDA Soil Health

University of Florida IFAS Extension

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Forests Today and Every Day

Did you know that today is the International Day of Forests, as proclaimed by the United Nations?

We may think we grasp the importance of rain forests throughout the world and temperate SONY DSCdeciduous forests in our country, but forests play a much larger role than many of us realize. Today marks the global celebration of forests. International Day of Forests sets to raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests and trees outside of forests.

In the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “As we deliberate on the post-2015 development agenda, let us acknowledge the vital role of forests and pledge to work together to protect and sustainably manage these vital ecosystems.”

Consider these facts from the United Nations:

  • Forests cover 1/3 of the Earth’s land mass.
  • Approximately 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures –depend on forests for their livelihood. JaguarForests also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest dependent communities.
  • Forests are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.
  • Forests play a key role in our attempt to adapt to and mitigating climate change. For example, they protect watersheds, which supply 75% of freshwater worldwide.

Muir Woods, Mill Valley, CAYet, despite the vital role forests play in the ecological, economic and social realms of human and planetary existence, we continue to witness global deforestation at an alarming rate. According to the United Nations, deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Learn more about what the Arbor Day Foundation is doing to protect and replant our nation’s forests as well as forests throughout the world at www.arborday.org/replanting and www.arborday.org/programs/rainforest.

Spring has Sprung! Which trees are attracting what birds to your yard?

This time of year, we experience the arrival of spring, the leafing out of our precious trees, and take comfort in the greening of our community and the joy of the songbird.  This benefit of trees – this experience – brings forth pleasurable feelings and emotions, and creates fond memories that are priceless.

Thank you for your responses to our recent post “Planting Trees to Attract Birds.

Let’s take a look at which trees are attracting what birds to your yards.Live-Oak_1-876Sargent-Crabapple_1-821Japanese-Dogwood_1-830

 

Top five responses:

1. Oak (Live Oak and Red Oak)

2. Dogwood

3. Serviceberry

4. Juniper

5. Crabapple and Mulberry

Honorable mention:

holly, American mountainash, apple, aucuba, boxwood, butterfly bush, chokeberry,  cypress, elderberry,  fir, forsythia, hazel, hemlock,   laurel, lilac, maple, Norway spruce, pear, raspberry, saucer magnolia, white pine, and wild cherry.

We also had a plethora of responses regarding the type of birds our members and followers see visiting their yards.

Cardinal photo credit Brian GudzevichChickadee photo credit Eugene BeckesBluebird photo credit Henry T McLin

 

Top five most common birds:

1. Cardinals

2. Chickadees

3. Woodpeckers

4. Bluejays

5. Hummingbirds

Other birds that folks are seeing in their yards are wrens, robins, sparrows, catbirds, owls, crows, warblers, mockingbirds, and bluebirds!

Thanks for sharing with us!

Any other trees or birds you’d like to add to the list?

Planting Trees to Attract Birds

While birds are a joy to watch and listen to all year American-Mountainash_3-872long, it is particularly during the long winter months when their bright and cheerful presence is even more appreciated. Following an especially cold and dreary winter, the coming of spring brings thoughts of planting trees and shrubs to attract these delightful feathered friends. While they certainly enrich our lives with their presence when they grace our yards and gardens, we, too, can do much for them by providing necessary food sources and habitat.

By planting certain species of trees and shrubs, you can provide year-long natural food sources for these creatures, particularly during times of year when food is scarce. Selecting several trees or shrubs that have berries during different times of the year are great choices—and most also provide beauty in the form of spring blossoms or vibrant fall foliage. Blackhaw-Viburnum_1Great choices include Dogwood, Serviceberry, Mulberry, Viburnum, Sargent Crabapple, American Mountainash, Black Tupelo, Juniper and Winterberry Holly.

The cover trees and shrubs provide is also vital for attracting birds, as they need areas of shelter and protection for breeding, nesting, sleeping, traveling, and hiding from enemies. Many trees and shrubs can be both sources of cover and food; some good choices include Canadian Hemlock, Fir, Spruce, Eastern Redcedar, Birch, and Oak.

The Arbor Day Foundation and arborday.org are great sources of information.  White-Fir_1-839Our Tree City USA Bulletin #13: Trees for Wildlife and Conservation Trees: How to Attract Songbirds and Wildlife are excellent resources.

And please remember to provide a water source. Birds, like all wildlife, need water, and by installing a bird bath or other water feature, you will attract even more birds and provide a better habitat for them. Be sure to change the water frequently and keep it free of ice in the winter.

Ready to attract birds to your yard and garden but don’t know where to start?

Among the several free landscape designs available for download is the “Hedgerow Bird Shelter” also known as the “Bird Magnet.” Bird-MagnetBird-LayoutDesigned by registered landscape architect and president of Kersey/Wike Associates, Joel T. Parker, this landscape plan is attractive to birds by way of food and shelter as well as providing visual interest for all seasons. It includes the use of Washington Hawthorne, American Cranberrybush Viburnum, Arrowwood Viburnum and Winterberry Holly. A useful addition to any bird-lover’s property, this landscape plan is a source of beauty and enjoyment. Read more about the details of this design plan on the original arborday.org blog post.

Prairifire-Flowering-Crabapple_1-820The arborday.org tree nursery also offers a Trees for Birds Collection, a bird-friendly tree package containing one of each of the following: Purpleleaf Sand Cherry, Prairiefire Crab, American Mountainash, Canadian Hemlock and Norway Spruce.

What trees attract birds to your yard? Do you have any specific types of birds that seem to love your trees and shrubs? Let us know in the comments.