World Water Week: Trees Play a Significant Role

Mountain StreamTo celebrate World Water Week, organized by the Stockholm Water Institute, let’s talk trees and H₂0!

Trees and clean water go hand in hand. Trees—large rainforests and deciduous forests in particular—can play a significant role in the preservation, purification, and even production of this precious resource.

Forests help to:

-Filter and purify water

Forests provide natural filtration and storage systems that supply an estimated 75 percent of usable water globally… (nearly 2/3 of the water supply in the U.S.) One study estimates the value of water regulation and supply at $2.3 trillion globally.CIFOR

“Trees and forests improve stream quality and watershed health by decreasing the amount of storm water runoff and pollutants that reach local waters. They take up nutrients and pollutants from soils and water through their roots, and transform them into less harmful substances. Forests also maintain high water quality by minimizing soil erosion and reducing sediment.” -CIFOR

In the city of Victoria in the province of British Columbia, their forested watershed is so effective at purifying their drinking water, the only treatment they do is filtering for course debris and passing the water under a UV light. No chemicals are added to purify the water.” -CIFOR

-Manage stormwater and reduce severity of drought

“(Trees) allow rain water to percolate into the soil rather than rushing off carrying with it oil, metal particles and other pollutants. Below ground, roots hold the soil in place and absorb water that will eventually be released into the atmosphere by transpiration.” –Tree City USA Bulletin #55: How Trees Can Retain Stormwater Runoff

Forests act as giant sponges, soaking up rainfall during wet seasons and slowly releasing it during times of drought.” -CIFOR

“(Forests) could also help us to adapt to a changing climate and combat drought by influencing rainfall patterns…Tropical forests contribute to regulating river flows both during dry seasons and high rainfall events, thereby minimizing risks related to water scarcity and floods.” -CIFOR

-Maintain rainfall levels throughout the world

Air passing over vegetation produces about twice as much rain as that blowing across sparsely covered ground…In some cases these forests increased rainfall thousands of kilometers away.” –Leeds University study

A vast forest such as the Amazon is able to pump significant amounts of water into the atmosphere, promoting cloud formation and movement, even thousands of kilometers away…impacting rainfall patterns in other parts of the world.” -CIFOR

‘By better understanding this process, we may, one day, be able to strategically plant trees that will bring rain to regions that need it most,’ David Ellison from the Institute for World Economics said.” –CIFOR

Your Part

What can you do today?

Taking care of our earth’s major tree resources will play an ever-increasing role in the worldwide effort to maintain our water supply.

Every little bit helps—pure, clean water can start with you.

Sources:

 

Celebrating Global Tiger Day: July 29

Today – July 29 - is Global Tiger Day, a day for appreciating and celebrating all species of tigers worldwide. Unfortunately, this also means realizing their great decline in numbers due to poaching, habitat loss, and conflicts.

Tigers recline in their natural habitat. Image via National Geographic; photo credit: Steve Winter.

Tigers recline in their natural habitat. Image via National Geographic; photo credit: Steve Winter.

Did you know…trees and tigers go hand-in-hand. A majority of tigers’ natural habitats are made up of forests. Tropical, evergreen, temperate and snow-covered hardwood forests, along with mangrove swamps, are all home to various species of tiger.

Celebrate these beautiful creatures on Global Tiger Day — and every day — by raising awareness and supporting the preservation of their habitats.

Five facts about tigers from our friends at the World Wildlife Fund:

Tiger Ranges

This map shows the shrinking global range of tigers. Map copyright World Wildlife Fund.

1. In the last century alone, tigers have lost 93% of their historic range.

2. Continued large-scale habitat destruction and decimation of prey populations are the major long-term threats to the continued existence of tigers in the wild.3. Tiger habitat decreased by 45% in the last 10 years.

4. All tigers need dense vegetation, the presence of large ungulate prey, and access to water to be able to survive.

5. Tigers are found in a wide range of habitats in Asia and the Russian Far East, in increasingly fragmented and isolated populations.

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Coe Roberts is an Electronic Communication Specialist at the Arbor Day Foundation.

Search for great coffee takes Arbor Day Foundation’s Jared Carlson to Costa Rica

The Arbor Day Foundation’s specialty coffee has great taste and great values. It is shade grown under rain forest canopies in Mexico and Peru, and great care is taken during every step of production.

As Development Manager Jared Carlson tells me, we don’t cut corners.

“Our focus has been on sourcing with the highest quality possible,” he says. “We want to put together an amazing cup of coffee.”

Carlson, who works out of the Foundation’s Lincoln office, knows what he’s talking about. In January, he traveled to Costa Rica to explore possible new coffee sources and to get a closer look at how it’s done on the ground.

He spent his trip waking up before sunrise and taking long journeys every day to talk to farmers, staying in what he described as “some rustic, remote areas.”

Shade-grown coffee has a number of benefits. It requires fewer inputs like fertilizer and pesticides. And it prevents the clear-cutting of rain forests that is required for traditionally mass-produced, sun-grown coffee.

The care of harvest also produces a richer, more flavorful bean because it matures more slowly.

While some of the larger coffee producers pick the cherries that later become coffee beans before they have fully ripened and throw them in a large truck, shade-grown farmers only pick the cherries when they are ready to be picked.

“Back in the 70s, there was a big shift toward basically a more mechanized approach to production of coffee,” Carlson says. “What they figured out is if you level out all the trees and you start planting these coffee trees in a row and start using a lot of pesticides and fertilizers, you can actually get them to produce a lot more cherries. So there was this big push just to slash and burn.”

The result has been devastating to the environment, which Carlson saw firsthand.

“Costa Rica is a very beautiful country, but everywhere you look you can see the deforestation that has occurred. And you have the coffee shrubs in their place.”

People talked a lot about roads getting blocked off and farms being destroyed by landslides, but they didn’t make the connection that ripping out native trees was the cause. Coffee is technically a shrub, though its green color can be deceiving. Many think it’s going to hold the soil in place, but it is no substitute for the larger trees that coffee plants replace.

Shade grown coffee truly makes a difference – for saving rain forests, but also by greatly reducing the environmental degradation that follows from severe deforestation. That has a meaningful impact on quality of life.

Carlson says the economy of scale is not there yet for shade-grown coffee farms to work in much of Costa Rica and other South and Central America countries. That’s where the Foundation has a role to play increasing demand.

“Basically, what we need to do is create a larger marketplace, which I believe comes from educating the consumers that it does make a difference what coffee you drink,” he says. “And as we build the demand for those coffees, we can go to coffee growing regions and offer them an economic incentive to keep the rain forest intact.”

Learn more about our award-winning coffee here.