How trees can save us

By Alissa Walker
On Dallas’s hottest summer days, Matt Grubisich would dispatch his colleagues at the Texas Trees Foundation to take manual air temperature readings across the city. “You think the number to go by is the weather station out at the airport,” he says, pointing to Dallas’s Love Field, five miles northwest of the city center. “But then we’d go to a parking lot downtown where it was 6 degrees warmer.”

As the director of operations and urban forestry for the Texas Trees Foundation, Grubisich was trying to demonstrate that Dallas needed to make major design changes to fortify itself against epic heat waves. “It’s easy to explain to people why they park under a tree when they drive to the grocery store,” he says. Getting local leaders and the population at large to take action to bring more trees to the city was a tougher sell.

Thanks to the city’s 2015 effort to map its urban forest, Grubisich and his team already knew that the city’s trees were not evenly distributed. Almost half of Dallas’s trees were located within the Great Trinity Forest, a 6,000-acre nature preserve. That didn’t leave a lot of trees for the rest of the city, where some neighborhoods only had tree canopy over 10 percent of their communities.
To make the case for rethinking the city’s approach to trees, Grubisich and the Texas Trees Foundation turned to data on a larger scale. The organization’s comprehensive urban heat study, released in 2017, showed that one-third of the city was suffering from a phenomenon called urban heat island effect. A full 35 percent of the city was covered by impermeable surfaces, like parking lots, roads, and buildings, which absorb sunlight and end up heating up the air around them.

“I knew we would have a rather robust urban heat island,” says Grubisich. “That number, that was the most alarming part. That was the catalyst.”

Dallas’s heat island was more than robust: Parts of the city were up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than their rural counterparts. The urban heat island was expanding so rapidly that the ninth-largest city in the country was warming faster than any other large U.S. city except Phoenix.

Source: How trees can save us – Curbed, 2019-07-10

Science can guide replanting trees for storm resistance

By Mark Tancig
We can use science to guide the replanting so that we choose wind-resistant species and implement other best practices to prevent future damage.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, with our neighbors to the west still recovering, many folks may be questioning the wisdom of having trees near their house. The value of trees to our own health (oxygen, air purification, quality of life benefits), home values, energy savings, and wildlife habitat is pretty well agreed upon.

However, many of us, or someone we know, recently experienced a tree coming down on their house, car, or other valuables. There’s nothing like a tree falling through the roof to keep you from wanting to plant another one.

Yet, we need trees. With the continued loss of forests to development and the growing body of knowledge regarding current and future environmental issues we face (think climate change and loss of species), we can’t afford to not keep planting trees. In fact, we should be planting more!

So how do we justify planting more trees in a hurricane-prone area when many of us just witnessed a lot of damage caused by the trees? Well, we can use science to guide the replanting so that we choose wind-resistant species and implement other best practices to prevent future damage as much as possible.

Fortunately, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has faculty and staff who collect and synthesize data on how trees handle hurricanes so that citizens can use that information to make better, informed decisions. They noticed trends when studying information collected following nine hurricanes, from 1992 to 2005, that ranged from top winds of 85 to 165 miles per hour.

The researchers broke the results into three different areas that affected the resilience of trees and included lessons learned regarding the health of the community’s urban forest, the individual trees themselves, and the root zone conditions surrounding trees.

Some of the results will seem straightforward.

For example, more trees fall in higher intensity storms and older, poorly structured trees with damaged roots don’t perform as well. Other data collected provided insights into which trees and environmental conditions make for a more resilient urban forest, such as the fact that trees planted in groups fare better. Much information was gathered on which tree species performed best in the face of high winds.

Source: Science can guide replanting trees for storm resistance – Tallahassee Democrat, 2019-06-27

Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

The ʻŌhiʻa tree, with its companion lehua blossom, is found only in Hawaiʻi, and is the most common of our Islands’ native trees. It is the keystone of the Hawaiʻi forest, critical to the ecology of our watersheds and sacred in Hawaiian culture. And now it is under attack, with new species of fungi killing trees on two islands.

Source: Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death | Insights on PBS Hawaiʻ‘i, 2019-04-04

A legendary Ozark chestnut tree, thought extinct, is rediscovered

BY ROBERT LANGELLIER
The chinquapin was supposed to have been wiped out by blight. Now one determined Missouri naturalist is hand-pollinating trees in secret groves to bring it back.

STEVE BOST WILL show you some Ozark chinquapin trees. “But I’d have to blindfold you before you get in the car,” he jokes.

Deep in the rolling southeast Missouri Ozarks, Bost gets out of his car at the end of a remote dirt road. Somewhere nearby, carefully hidden from the public, is the Ozark chinquapin tree, once a keystone Ozark forest species. Decimated by chestnut blight in the mid-1900s, any viable trees were thought to be long gone—that is, until Bost found a few healthy hangers-on in the 2000s. Now he’s trying to bring the tree back from the edge of blight in a non-traditional way. And he’s succeeding.

Source: A legendary Ozark chestnut tree, thought extinct, is rediscovered – National Geographic, 2019-06-24

Wealthy Families Are Adding Forests to Their Portfolios

By Lananh Nguyen
Tom Crowder spent much of his two-year career in the NFL running away from men who weighed upwards of 300 pounds. These days? He worries about bears and snakes. As a senior vice president at Bank of America Corp., Crowder spends most days in the woods, from the evergreen forests of New England to the wetlands of the Carolinas, scouting U.S. timberland assets for people with a net worth of at least $100 million and a minimum of $10 million to invest.

“Trees don’t move as fast as Pro Bowl linebackers,” Crowder says on a recent field trip to a client’s timber farm in South Carolina overlooking the alligator-­populated Waccamaw River. As turtles sun themselves and wild turkeys roam, he recounts over a picnic lunch the “neat experience” of his stint as a wide receiver and safety for the Dallas Cowboys. After a busted jaw and emergency surgery, he was happy to go back to his roots, as a third-generation forester.

Crowder is among more than 200 experts employed by Bank of America’s Specialty Asset Management group, or SAM, which manages more than 94,000 assets with a value of $13.6 billion for individuals and institutions. The target client is looking for timberland, farms, ranches, energy interests, or real estate, so-called alternative investments that can diversify portfolios mostly made up of stocks and bonds and can provide a hedge against inflation.

Returns for timberland totaled 3.2% in 2018, compared with 2.4% so far this year, according to an index from the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries.

Source: Wealthy Families Are Adding Forests to Their Portfolios – Bloomberg, 2019-06-16

The Moroccan Food Forest That Inspired an Agricultural Revolution

By Eric J. Wallace
These ancient forest gardens may be more relevant than ever.

Before modernization, food forests were a staple of indigenous communities in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and beyond. Though most have vanished, vestiges have been identified in places as diverse as Tanzania, southern India, Indonesia, the Amazon Rainforest, Central America, and the Caribbean islands.

“This method of agriculture was used throughout the world, but particularly in tropical regions, where multi-species food forests were once the dominant method of production,” says John F. Munsell, Virginia Tech professor of agroforestry and co-author of 2018’s The Community Food Forest Handbook. Though little is known about their early history and adaption, Munsell says forest gardens began with villagers seeking to make their lives easier.

“They settled inside or along forest edges and relied on them for food,” he says. “Naturally, they started managing and altering the environment to their advantage.”

Useful plants were cultivated. Those that weren’t got weaned out. As space opened up, new species were added.

“Say you find bananas growing a mile away,” says Munsell. “That’s great. But it takes time and energy to harvest those resources. Planting them in your backyard is infinitely more convenient.” If you apply that thinking across centuries, “the region’s indigent edible plants became aggregated in one spot.”

Villagers mimicked natural relationships and planted certain species closer to others. Trade introduced non-native plants. Trial-and-error brought horticultural knowledge. Techniques were passed down and steadily improved.

In time, conditions supporting helpful or edible bugs were encouraged. Ditto for mushrooms and medicinal herbs. Gardens came to include plants and nuts that fed livestock such as pigs or goats. Waterways were diverted and rainwater impoundments installed. Domesticated birds including chickens, guineas, and pheasants ate unwanted insects. Restricted to given areas, goats cleared brush. Pigs rooted in the soil, preparing it for planting. The animals’ manure served as fertilizer.

“The goal was effectively to create an agricultural ecosystem that was as self-sustaining as possible,” says Munsell. As a result, advanced region-specific methodologies emerged.

Source: The Moroccan Food Forest That Inspired an Agricultural Revolution – Gastro Obscura, 2019-04-01

‘If we don’t burn it, nature will’: Georgia blazes old fears, leads nation in prescribed fire

By Samantha Max and Maya Miller
As wildfires ravage the West, environmentalists and landowners in Georgia and the Southeast are preventing uncontrolled blazes and preserving the environment with prescribed burns.

Mark Melvin lit a match and dropped it to the forest floor. He then lit another and another, blazing a circle of flames around a towering pine tree.

Soon, a bright orange glow swallowed 113 acres of brush, radiating a skin-piercing heat. A thick fog rose from the ground, casting a shadow on the amber tree trunks looming above.

Lighting fires is like playing a game of chess, Melvin said. You always have to be one step ahead.

“I can see the fire before I light it,” he said.

Melvin is no arsonist. He’s a forest manager, responsible for about 18,000 acres of woods at the Joseph W. Jones Center at Ichauway Plantation in southwest Georgia. The expansive range, once the quail hunting preserve of Coca-Cola’s former president and host to distinguished guests like former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is now a living laboratory for some of the country’s leading environmental scientists.

Each winter for the last two decades, Melvin has set fires to cement that legacy. On days when the weather and wind allow, he makes a detailed plan, applies for a burn permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission, and suits up in a mustard jacket and brown leather boots for a few hours of fire and smoke.

For him, fire is not just destructive — it’s an agent of change. The flames lick away layers of pine needles and fallen leaves, clearing a path for sunlight to seep in and sprout fresh shoots of grass.

Forests need fire. Without them, plants die, animals leave, and mounds of flammable undergrowth pile high. Rather than wait for a lightning strike or cigarette butt to spark an uncontrollable wave of flames, Melvin conducts controlled burns, also known as prescribed fire.

“Just like a doctor prescribes medication to keep their patient healthy, we prescribe fire to keep the forest healthy,” Melvin said.

Read more here: https://www.macon.com/news/state/georgia/article230380414.html#storylink=cpy

Source: ‘If we don’t burn it, nature will’: Georgia blazes old fears, leads nation in prescribed fire – The Telegraph, 2019-06-11

A new strategy to regrow a forest on abandoned mineland: Start by tearing up the earth

By Andy Kubis
The relatively new technique counters what had been traditional practice. But, one forester said, “It’s more natural — the way it was supposed to be, the way it was before mining.”

Deep in the Moshannon State Forest in Elk County, there’s a sloped, barren patch of land surrounded by an otherwise healthy forest. It looks as if a tornado has torn through here — the earth has been churned up, with tangled roots and jumbled rocks.

In the late 1800s, this area was deep-mined. Later, it was strip-mined. When the coal companies left in the mid-1990s, the land was abandoned. Then about twelve years ago, the site was reclaimed. Trees were planted, but didn’t take, as often happens on reclaimed minelands.

“The technology back then was to just re-contour the land,” explains John Hecker, a forester for the state who manages this track of land. “But the bulldozers, as they ran over the land, they compacted the soil. Trees don’t do very well on compacted soil. This site is a good example of that.”

What few trees are here are extremely stunted and thin. But now this — and hundreds of acres of formerly mined land in Pennsylvania — are getting an ecological do-over. ‘Reclamation 2.0,’ you could call it.

That’s why the ground is ripped apart. A jumbo-sized bulldozer with a 3-foot blade came through here earlier in the year and criss crossed the area with deep furrows. As the dozer went through, it blended the materials together to make what looks like very healthy soil: a lot of shale, pre-mined and native soils and sandstone.

“Now the tree roots [can] grow down into that loose soil where it’s moist,” Hecker said. “Those trees will really grow well.”

This aggressive form of bulldozing is a relatively new technique; it’s only been used for the last 10 years or so. It’s called the Forestry Reclamation Approach.

Source: A new strategy to regrow a forest on abandoned mineland: Start by tearing up the earth – StateImpact Pennsylvania, 2019-06-07

Trees talk to each other and scientists have mapped the network

By Robert Dalheim
Scientists discovered that trees talk to each other through the Wood Wide Web. And now, they’ve mapped it.

Do trees actually talk to each other? And if so, how do they do it?

Just over 20 years ago, ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees do communicate with each other, and it’s through a fungal network scientists have nicknamed the Wood Wide Web.

And now, an international team of scientists has created the first global map of the vast underground network. They did this by creating a computer algorithm to analyze a database from the Global Forest Inititiave, which includes 1.2 million trees in more than 70 countries.

The algorithm takes into account the different fungal species that associate with each tree species. It also takes into account local climate factors – which the scientists say has the biggest role to play.

“It’s the first time that we’ve been able to understand the world beneath our feet, but at a global scale,” Thomas Crowther, an author of the study from ETH Zurich, told the BBC. “Just like an MRI scan of the brain helps us to understand how the brain works, this global map of the fungi beneath the soil helps us to understand how global ecosystems work.

“What we find is that certain types of microorganisms live in certain parts of the world, and by understanding that we can figure out how to restore different types of ecosystems and also how the climate is changing,” he said.

Source: Trees talk to each other and scientists have mapped the network – Woodworking News, 2019-05-16

What it feels like … to work with trees

By Susan Swarbrick
Ben Quarcoo, operations forester for Forestry and Land Scotland

I HAVE worked in forestry for 14 years and cover the central belt stretching all the way from South Lanarkshire up towards Stirling.

My area includes Whitelee Forest at Eaglesham Moor, the Kilpatrick Hills, Lennox Forest, the Campsie Fells and into the Carron Valley. Most of the land isn’t within high population areas, but there are some woods in or around towns or cities such as Cardowan Moss in Easterhouse, Drumchapel Woods and Greenoakhill near Glasgow.

I was born and grew up in Ghana. It is in the tropical belt and the persistent heavy downpours – there is only a short dry season – help to create broad-ranging diversity. The trees grow almost year-round, but here in Scotland we have two distinct growing seasons: spring and summer.

Before moving to the UK, I worked for the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi where I researched forest management, soil civilisation, tree establishment and water catchment quality. I completed a master’s degree in environmental forestry management at Bangor University in Wales and joined Forestry and Land Scotland, formerly Forest Enterprise Scotland.

My role involves everything from ensuring ground conditions are well prepared to managing drainage. There are utility services across the forest estate with gas pipelines, underground cables, water supplies and overhead powerlines all criss-crossing, so you need to know what you are doing and where you are digging. We construct firebreaks – clearing a strip of open space at least five metres wide – so that if wildfire breaks out it can’t quickly ravage the forest.

Source: What it feels like … to work with trees – HeraldScotland, 2019-05-14