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Posts Tagged ‘trees’

We all know that chestnut trees were wiped out by disease, right? Well, maybe not.

Susan Sharon at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network has a hopeful story.

“A century ago American chestnut trees dominated the eastern woodlands from Georgia to Maine. Growing straight and tall they were prized for timber. Wildlife depended on the nuts they provided every year.

“People ate the chestnuts, too, scooping them up by the sackful every Fall. Then came an exotic blight accidentally introduced from Asia and the species was virtually wiped out.

“That’s why scientists are excited by a recent find in western Maine, a record-breaking find that is raising their hopes for the future.

“The unusual discovery was made from the air. Dr. Brian Roth, a forest scientist with the University of Maine was surveying areas most likely to have habitat conditions favorable for chestnut trees and – voila! Flying over some woods in Lovell he saw a telltale sign.

” ‘In July, when nothing else is blooming, this tree will have a large amount of white flowers in its crown,’ says Roth. …

“This is not just any tree. This is an American chestnut tree worthy of the record books. …

“As girth goes, this chestnut tree is not so impressive. It’s on the skinny side. And most people wouldn’t pick it out as distinctive in a forest lineup. But when it comes to height, this American chestnut reigns supreme.

” ‘We think it’s around one hundred years old,’ says Roth. ‘It’s over 100 feet tall, which makes it the tallest [chestnut] that we know of in North America.’ …

” ‘We’re quite interested in these native trees, one for getting them into the population, our breeding program, as well as where do these trees grow?’ Roth says.

“The North Carolina-based American Chestnut Foundation is devoted to restoration of the American chestnut to its historic range. … Dr. Jared Westbrook is the American Chestnut Foundation’s geneticist. …

“He says more than 60,000 chestnut trees have been planted so far. To help them out, the group is using a virus that infects the chestnut fungus and makes it weaker. But Westbrook says only 500 trees, the toughest and the best of the bunch, will ultimately be selected for reintroduction to the wild.” Listen to the story here.

The poet Marianne Moore once wrote, “I rejoice that there are owls.” Today I rejoice that there are chestnut trees.

Photo: MPBN/Susan Sharon
Here’s the evidence. People are excited about finding a 100-year-old chestnut tree that survived blight in Maine. Other chestnuts are being nurtured in the South.

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EcoRI News is a local environmental site where I often find good stories. I especially like this one. It’s not only an upbeat environmental story, but it features middle-school and high-school enrichment in a district that has not often been able to afford enrichment.

Frank Carini writes from Central Falls, “Crammed into 1.3 square miles is a diverse community of 19,300 residents, lots of traffic and plenty of pavement. The most densely populated city in the smallest state also lacks green.

“Central Falls has the lowest percentage of tree cover in Rhode Island. … Today, only 3 percent of Central Falls is green space, a problem Mayor James Diossa soon began addressing when he took office three years ago.

“ ‘Past administrations had never given priority or importance to the role of trees,’ he told ecoRI News earlier this year during a tour of revitalized Jenks Park and a nearby community garden. ‘Trees are instrumental for a community.’

“When Diossa took office in January 2013, it had been nearly three years since the city filed for receivership and nearly two years since it had filed for bankruptcy. Those challenges, however, didn’t prevent Diossa and his administration from implementing ‘Operation Tree Hugger.’

“In December 2014, students from Calcutt Middle School and Scituate High School partnered with the city to develop a proposal for the America the Beautiful-Tree Rhode Island 2015-2016 grant program. The students’ proposal was funded. Four months later, on April 10, 2015, the students planted 14 trees around Calcutt Middle School and established the Central Falls Arboretum.

“Since then, tree plantings haven’t stopped. Last year a group of local middle-school students planted 15 trees along Hunt Street. On National Arbor Day in April, six trees were planted in front of City Hall. A line item has been added to the budget to fund the planting and maintenance of the city’s slowly growing green space. …

“The city and its many partners, however, aren’t limiting new green to the tall variety. They are bringing back all kinds of vegetation. The 26th-most densely populated city in the country wants an urban jungle that features more than concrete, asphalt, steel and brick.

“The community seems to have embraced its greening. The mayor noted that neighborhood volunteers water new plantings, weed, and keep a watchful eye on new green space.”

More at EcoRI, here.

Photo: Joanna Detz/ecoRI News
Middle-school students have planted 15 trees along Hunt Street. Six trees were planted in front of City Hall in April. Central Falls High School students have planted eggplants, peppers and tomatoes in what used to be a vacant lot.

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I’ve mentioned before that John is active on the Arlington Tree Committee. He’s been behind a major push to inventory the town’s trees, aided by local government support and the legwork of many residents.

Other members of the committee have been using Facebook to link to interesting research on the value of trees to communities.

Science Daily, for example, reported on a study by Adam Dale et al. of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) suggesting the best ways to keep trees healthy and sustain their economic value.

“Heat from city sidewalks, streets, and parking lots, along with insect pests, can damage trees planted in urban landscapes. Thus, it is critical to plant trees in the right places so they will do well in harsh urban environments, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

“More than half the world’s people and 80 percent of the U.S. population live in urban areas. Trees benefit these residents by filtering the air, reducing temperatures and beautifying landscapes. According to a new study led by Adam Dale, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology, these benefits are reduced when trees are planted in unsuitable urban landscapes. However, guidelines can be developed to lead urban tree- planting decisions in a more sustainable direction.” Check out the researchers’ “Pace to Plant” technique here.

At the Toronto Star,

“Using data from Toronto, a team of researchers has found that having 10 more trees on your block has self-reported health benefits akin to a $10,000 salary raise or moving to a neighbourhood with a $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger.

“By comparing satellite imagery of Toronto, an inventory of trees on public land and general health surveys, the team, led by University of Chicago psychologist Marc Berman, found that people who live on a tree-lined block are less likely to report conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease or diabetes.

‘Their findings appeared [in 2015] in the open-access journal Scientific Reports.” More at the Star here.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that research social scientist Kathleen L. Wolf has written extensively on the value of trees: for example, in this Communities & Banking article on how “the urban forest” benefits local businesses.

Photo: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS
Numerous studies show trees improve health and quality of life in communities and make shopping at local businesses more appealing.

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Straight from Maria Popova’s wonderful Brain Pickings blog, a review of an illustrated book on strange trees.

“In Strange Trees and the Stories Behind Them (public library), French author Bernadette Pourquié and illustrator Cécile Gambini choreograph an illustrated tour of the world’s greatest arboreal wonders, from species that have witnessed the dinosaurs roam this Earth to exotic marvels like Brazil’s ‘Walking Tree’ (Red Mangrove) and the Philippines’ ‘Rainbow Tree’ (Mindanao gum tree) to underappreciated procurers of human delights, such as the sapodilla tree that gives us chewing gum and the cocoa tree without which there would be no chocolate.

“Alongside each imaginative illustration, partway between botany and fairy tale, is a one-page autobiography of the respective tree, describing its natural and cultural habitat in a short first-person story fusing curious science facts, history, and local customs.” Read more.

I hope that John is reading this post. He’s officially on his town’s tree committee — promoting the value of trees in urban and commercial areas as well as residential — and he is leading a town tree inventory that was launched yesterday.

 Illustration: Cécile Gambini 

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Massachusetts Avenue in East Arlington is shrinking. After contentious debate, the town decided to widen the sidewalks, add barrier islands in the street, and new plantings and benches.

The job is not done, but in spite of construction and less room for vehicles, the traffic doesn’t seem to have increased — one of those counterintuitive results that designers tout. The goal is to make the street more pedestrian and bike friendly and allow more community activities on sidewalks. Through the tree committee, John has been involved with the beautification side of things.

One of the issues that gets raised when a major disruption like this is afoot is the effect on small businesses. Neighbors are making a point of shopping local, hoping that Arlington merchants won’t suffer.

And to make sure residents don’t forget how important that is, there is an amusing signage campaign — signs saying that “Businesses are [fill in the blank] during Construction.”

For example, “Businesses are Opalescent during Construction.” Other Mad-Libs-type adjectives used are Quirky, Colorific, Radiant, Prismatic, Harmonic, Niblicious, and Excellent.

Below, I include a couple of the signs. And I tried to show how the project is coming along — the wide sidewalk, the plantings, the bench. I look forward to seeing how the residents begin to make use of their new public spaces.

091915-shop-local-despite-construction

101715-support-small-biusiness

101715-bump-out-sidewalk

101715-widening-the-walk

101715-wider-walk-allows-benches

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John (founder of www.mistersmartyplants.com) is a member of Arlington Tree Committee. He figured out a way to use Google Maps to identify heritage trees in town and got a sign made to encourage residents to adopt a thirsty tree.

Now that so many urban and suburban areas have taken down their trees to make construction projects easier, people are realizing what they’re missing.

Many have noted that trees play a role in residents’ mental and physical health.

University of Washington research social scientist Kathy Wolf has studied the health aspects and also has economic arguments. She has shown that an “urban canopy”  makes local shopping more agreeable for customers and lends vitality to downtown business districts. Read what she has learned, here.

Chris Mooney at the Washington Post notes other research. “In a new paper published Thursday, a team of researchers present a compelling case for why urban neighborhoods filled with trees are better for your physical health. The research appeared in the open access journal Scientific Reports.

“The large study builds on a body of prior research showing the cognitive and psychological benefits of nature scenery — but also goes farther in actually beginning to quantify just how much an addition of trees in a neighborhood enhances health outcomes. The researchers, led by psychologist Omid Kardan of the University of Chicago, were able to do so because they were working with a vast dataset of public, urban trees kept by the city of Toronto — some 530,000 of them, categorized by species, location, and tree diameter — supplemented by satellite measurements of non-public green space (for instance, trees in a person’s back yard). …

“Controlling for income, age and education, we found a significant independent effect of trees on the street on health,” said Marc Berman, a co-author of the study and also a psychologist at the University of Chicago. “It seemed like the effect was strongest for the public [trees]. Not to say the other trees don’t have an impact, but we found stronger effects for the trees on the street.”

Thank you to my high school classmate, Susie from Cleveland, for putting the Washington Post article on Facebook.

071115-Arlington-Tree-Watering

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I liked this story at TreeHugger on protecting trees and fighting poverty at the same time — especially the part about the importance of women in the effort.

Sami Grover writes, “The old trope that we can either have economic development or environmental protection has been pretty much blown out of the water by this point. …

“Nowhere is this more true than the dry lands of Africa, where desertification, resource depletion, climate disruption and political unrest have all taken their toll on communities’ ability to survive and thrive. There is, however, plenty to be hopeful about too. …

Tree Aid, a charity which works with villagers living in the drylands of Africa, has long been at the forefront of this fight. By working cooperatively with villagers and on-the-ground non-profit partners in Africa, the charity doesn’t just plant trees, but rather increases villagers’ capacity to protect, nurture and utilize trees to protect their soils, increase agricultural yields, and provide a buffer against the drought, floods and failed crops that are predicted to get ever more common with the advance of climate change.

“A new free report from the charity, entitled Building Resilience to Climate Shocks, the charity is seeking to spread the word about how trees can be used to both alleviate poverty and protect the environment at the same time. …

“Previous tree planting efforts in the drylands have often failed because they’ve either focused on the wrong species of trees, or they have failed to take into account the needs, resources and skills of the local population. …

“Unless short-term needs are met, long-term needs are compromised. … Tree Aid has worked with villagers to develop alternatives to ecologically damaging land management practices:

TREE AID provides training for villagers to plan ways to make money in the short-term as well as the long. For example by producing honey from the bees which live on unburnt land and using fallen trees for fuelwood. This gives them enough income to sustain and invest in their futures and environments, as well as preparing themselves for weather extremes. …

“One of the strategies the charity uses to build climate resilience is to establish ‘Tree Banks’ within a community. These banks are essentially mixed-species tree plantings that can provide for a range of needs from fuel wood to animal fodder to fruit or other products. Each community establishes rules and management practices for when and how a Tree Bank may be used. …

“Any successful strategy for regreening these regions must work within those cultures to empower and educate women as caretakers of the environment: When women take part in decision-making there is a long-term positive impact on trees. They become important forest caretakers.”

More at Tree Aid, here ,and at Treehugger, here.

Photo: Tree Aid

 

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