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Parks & People: Shade is the Secret

Park Pride of Atlanta hosted a conference this week at the Atlanta Botanical Garden with keynote speakers Peter Harnik, Director of the Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence and Cynthia Nitkin, Senior Vice President at Project for Public Spaces. 

These articles by the Saporta Report summarize the conference theme, Parks and People.

Parks can ignite growth in cities 

by Maria Saporta

As more people move to the City of Atlanta, having quality parks is key

by Saba Long

Examples of the latest techniques in park building were discussed, including the Atlanta Beltline. (Another great example is Ellis Square in Savannah, a park on top of an underground parking garage.)

In her presentation, Cynthia said the key to having a great park is offering food, free wi-fi, seating and shade.

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Just saw this interesting article on NPR.

Like other animals and many living things, we humans grow when we're young and then stop growing once we mature. But trees, it turns out, are an exception to this general rule. In fact, scientists have discovered that trees grow faster the older they get.

Once trees reach a certain height, they do stop getting taller. So many foresters figured that tree growth — and girth — also slowed with age.

"What we found was the exact opposite," says Nate Stephenson, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, based in California's Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. "Tree growth rate increases continuously as trees get bigger and bigger," Stephenson says.

for the rest of the article follow the link to the original NPR story:

Old Trees Don't Grow Taller, But Pack On Weight Like A Body-Builder

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The Growth of A Tree

Excerpt from Keeper of the Trees, by Ann Linnea

"The growth of a tree teaches us that things take time.  A seed drops into a fertile crack next to a rock in the forest and a seedling manages to grow - in the north, perhaps two feet in its first decade.  Miraculously, if conditions of weather, placement and protection continue to be favorable, the sapling takes its place on the forest floor as one of the up-and-coming strong trees.  One year a huge storm rages and fells a nearby large tree, creating an opening in the upper canopy.  There is an opportunity for the young tree.  Many decades pass, and gradually the tree begins a new role as one of the old growth in the forest.  The life of a tree is not a pathway of shooting to prominence or a pathway that any other tree has exactly the same way.  Following the opportunities that present themselves and survival among the ever-changing odds of nature is the pathway understood by Native peoples. "

In reference to wood carver, Russell Beebe, on how he listens to the wood and take his time when carving a piece of wood.  

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Study Finds Tree Growth

Do trees grow faster with more carbon in the atmosphere.  According to an article in the New York Times from a year ago, they do!  

February 2, 2010

Forests in the eastern United States appear to be growing faster in response to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a new study has found.

The study centered on trees in mixed hardwood stands on the western edge of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland that are representative of much of the those on the Eastern Seaboard.

All are growing two to four times as fast as normal, according to a study published in Tuesday’s issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

After controlling for other variables, scientists concluded that the change resulted largely from the increase in carbon dioxide, a major factor in climate change.

Trees are now known to play a vital role in countering global warming because they absorb and store carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping gas.

Geoffrey G. Parker, a co-author of the paper and an ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md., said his research indicated that the local forests were adapting to the rise in carbon dioxide by absorbing more.

“My guess is that they are already sopping up some of the extra carbon,” he said.

But Dr. Parker said it was unclear whether the trend could be sustained. “We don’t think this can persist for too long because other limiting factors will come into play, like water availability and soil nutrients,” he said.

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Typically old trees are big, but what other characteristics do old trees demonstrate. Neil Pederson of the Department of Biological Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University,  summarizes six characteristics in his abstract. 

(1) smooth or “balding” bark;

(2) low stem taper;

(3) high stem sinuosity;

4) crowns comprised of few, large-diameter, twisting limbs;

(5) low crown volume; and

(6) a low ratio of leaf area to trunk volume.


He concludes, "The existence of old trees in the landscape can also be related to life-history traits or land-use histories. Both professionals and lay folk can be trained to identify these traits and environmental conditions. While these characteristics and settings generally signal the potential for old trees, there is no guarantee that they represent old ages. However, these characteristics should aid in the discovery of old trees throughout the EDF.". 


Purchase Full Study

Photograph by Kathryn Kolb

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The Secret Forest

The soil was alive, the trees emanated old age, and the shade was prolific with pockets of light bursting through.  All expected qualities of an old growth forest.   The unexpected was the sound of airplanes overhead and cars from a nearby major road.   This was my experience at Big Trees Forest  Preserve located smack dab in the middle of one of the busiest sections of Atlanta.  More amazing is that, of the six million inhabitants surrounding the forest, I saw one person on a walk with their dog and another eating lunch at the entrance.   Adjacent to the forest are office building and strip malls that are full of people.   The contrast of the hot parking lot at the entrance and the cool breeze in the forest was tactile. Entry into the forest felt as if you were transitioning in time and space to a different reality.  The forest was a perfect combination of neglect and love.  Neglected by the general populous but observably cared for by those that love it with fantastic trails, maps, and informative designed viewpoints.   These hidden gems are not as rare as you might think.  I can count ten similar forests that I know of in the Atlanta Region.  Have you discovered the secret forest in your area yet?



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