With the resurgence of green in spring, we are reminded of the benefits that trees and greenspace bring our communities. Green Infrastructure contributes to healthy, thriving cities, but do you know exactly what the term means? We turn to Karen Firehock, Executive Director of the Green Infrastructure Center in Charlottesville, Virginia for a clear explanation:
What is Green Infrastructure?
Green infrastructure is made up of the interconnected network of waterways, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, and other natural areas; greenways, parks, and other conservation lands; working farms, ranches and forests; and wilderness and other open spaces that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, sustain air and water resources and contribute to health and quality of life (McDonald, Benedict, and O’Conner, 2005). Green infrastructure assets contribute to health and quality of life, such as forests that clean the air and filter and absorb stormwater. Just as we plan for "grey infrastructure" we also need to plan for and conserve our green infrastructure.
What is Green Infrastructure Planning?
We call our natural resources “green infrastructure” because they provide vital community functions. Green infrastructure (GI) includes our forests, agricultural soils, parks and open spaces, rivers, wetlands and bays, and other habitats. It provides clean water, food, air quality, wildlife habitat and recreation. It also supports cultural resources by providing scenic views and settings that enhance our enjoyment of the landscape. But we need to know where it is and how to conserve or restore it!
In short, green infrastructure planning entails:
- Inventorying green assets and connections,
- Identifying opportunities for their protection and/or restoration, and
- Developing a coordinated strategy to channel development and re-development to the most appropriate locations.
Visit Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) to learn more!
Please enjoy this expertly crafted article by Matt Lee from Kebony.
"Wood has long been the traditional building material used in construction, remaining prevalent in both commercial and residential designs today. The typical home may be structurally made of wood, clad in wood siding, feature wood decks, and perhaps even incorporate interior wood walls. Wood is not only sought after for its warm appearance, but also for its ease of use and availability.
There is argument over whether wood is a responsible option when designing with sustainability in mind. The negativity surrounding the use of wood mainly stems from the damage to the environment during the harvesting process, which brings into question whether this is a sustainable material. The reality is the irresponsible harvesting of wood is not sustainable and will lead to damage that is not easily reversible. However, the wood itself is sustainable in the sense that trees may be replanted.
There are four factors to consider when it comes to the responsibility of using wood in modern construction.
FSC-Certified Wood Materials
When purchasing lumber is it vital to only purchase FSC-certified wood. Some lumber companies only sell FSC-certified wood products while others may only have specifically labeled certified product lines. It is important to select certified wood material whenever possible.
When a wood product is FSC-certified is means the Forest Stewardship Council has found the product to be harvested from a responsibly managed forest that provides benefit to the environment (as well as the social and economic advantage). Nearly all forms of lumber or wood used in a building can be found certified, from hardwood plywood to wood shingle siding. The majority of companies will proudly label their wood as certified if they are, but if you are unsure it is best to directly contact the company.
Sustainable, Advanced Wood Materials
Another very interesting advancement in the world of wood is the process of wood modification. While still a true wood product, modified wood is denser, more durable, and in many ways more attractive due to its smooth appearance. The demand of modified wood is growing, especially as the shift towards sustainable building design has become more popular. Modified wood essentially has all the advantages of wood with very few of its weakness.
Modified wood is often made of FSC-certified wood, adding more to the responsibility of this product option. In terms of care as a siding or decking material, modified wood requires no sealing, painting, or any other use of surface treatment products. This reduces the potential of off-gassing VOCs and makes this product non-toxic to humans, animals, and the environment. When used structurally there is also no concern over chemicals leaching into the soil.
Manufacturing Process of Wood Products
In addition to purchasing safe wood products, it's worth it to look into how finished wood products have been made. The manufacturing process of mass-produced furniture, for example, uses an incredible amount of energy and may release a substantial amount of air pollution. This furniture so commonly available also tends to rely on poor quality wood or particle board, which means it will end up as waste in a landfill quicker than quality furniture. There is also some difficulty in determining whether the wood was responsibly harvested as well.
With these concerns in mind, it makes sense to support small-scale furniture manufacturers or those that design real wood furniture from certified wood lumber. Purchasing from local woodworkers also eliminates emissions associated with shipping furniture. Crafted real wood furniture is also very long lasting with proper care, making it an excellent investment. A perfect example of this is Amish furniture. An Amish living room furniture set will have been made from responsibly harvested, local wood and constructed in a manner that uses less energy.
Last but not least, sometimes wood alternatives are a great product to use in place of wood or in addition to wood. A common organic alternative to classic wood is bamboo panels. Bamboo has a very wood-like, warm appearance, often with a more clean, sleek look to it. Bamboo is naturally more moisture-resistant than wood, making it a great choice for interior design in kitchens and bathrooms. Bamboo is also a faster-growing building material, considered far more sustainable than wood for this reason.
Despite some misconceptions about the responsibility of using wood, this material will likely continue to be widely used in building design. Thankfully many companies strive to produce lumber that is responsibly harvested and free of potentially dangerous chemicals, which all helps to create more safe green buildings."
Thanks for the article Matt! If you have an article you would like to share with tree enthusiasts, comment below!
Are you fighting an uphill battle with invasive species? I have spent countless afternoons volunteering to remove invasive species that seem to start growing the second I turn my back. Are my efforts futile? Please share some of your best practices for removing invasive species in the comments below.
I recently learned a new technique from a local Atlanta organization. The event was titled "Greet the Goats", but was quickly dubbed Bleat and Greet. The day was spent with first-hand observing how farm animals can help tackle invasive species. These animals are nature's green garbage disposals, eating anything with leaves! There are very few plants that will upset the stomach of these hollow-horned mammals. Goats can eat up to 10 pounds of leaf litter a day. I watch incredulously as goats demolished poison ivy, English ivy, and Chinese privet. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the greatness of goats. Vegetation taller than breast height may be out of reach for these little animals. However, I witnessed goats applying their weight to tall shrubs to bend/knock them down to access taller greens.(Seen in picture 1)This method requires no fossil fuels (besides goat transportation) and provides a free natural fertilizing service. Many of the herd members are saved from goat dairy farms.
However, it is risky to employ these nondiscriminatory eaters once spring blooms are present. We recommend this as a summer technique. Please enjoy the pictures of these goofy hard workers!
For more information regarding the benefits of goats view the Eco-goats website!
A new contest to remind us how important trees are! From stormwater mitigation to carbon sequestration the benefits of urban forests are plentiful! To celebrate International Day of Forests, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) is hosting a photo contest to find forests in sustainable cities! Submit a photo and explain why forests are important to your city for a chance to win a trip to Rome!
Deadline for entry is March 9th!
Have you ever had a seemingly average day in the park turn into a spontaneous adventure? Use this forum to share journies and expeditions through an urban forest! We will begin this feed with a recent experience from Tulsa Ok.
In November, the American Grove team went to the Partners in Community Forestry conference and had an absolute blast. There is one particular instance during the bus tour that I will remember forever.
The last stop on our route was Turkey Mountain where we had an hour and a half to explore this urban wilderness area. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a very loud guest. It was impossible to ignore the wild barks coming from within the forest. The dog was mangy, underfed, and obviously scared out of his/her mind. The dog's coat blended into the leaves of the forest floor and would have been camouflaged if not for the cries for help. While others began their tour around this beautiful geologic feature our group was determined to help this dog.
First attempt unsuccessful: The dog shied away from any human contact, too frightened to come to close to us. I thought to give up. Mary Lynne, an AmericanGrove team member and an avid dog lover, was not easily convinced. It quickly became our mission to check for a collar or name tag.
Second attempt: luring with food, also unsuccessful. A valiant effort. Mary Lynne tried donating snacks from her purse. After throwing Pringles, cookies, and even dog treats we could still not get the dog to come close to us. (Side Note: the dog treats were supplied by a local dog owner, they did not come from Mary Lynne's purse.)
Luckily we met concerned locals who joined in the efforts. They contacted a nearby humane society and soon a volunteer was on their way. A majority of our allotted field trip was spent trying to console this dog. Reluctantly, our trip had come to an end and had to head back to the bus. We sat in our seats, concerned, staring out the window longingly at the mangey ball of fur. Abiding by the conference schedule, it was time to head back to our hotel. Before we left Mary Lynne was sure to give the local her business card so that we could receive updates regarding the status of the dog. It is safe to say, that if concerned locals were not actively trying to help this dog, Mary Lynne would have missed the bus to stay and wait for the arrival of a humane society volunteer.
The AmericanGrove team distracted by the dog, allowed me the time to take some beautiful photos of this park:
UPDATE: the dog has been cared for and has accepted love from a foster family.
The AmericanGrove is not just tree lovers, we are passionate about even the smallest members of our urban communities!! Thank you, Mary Lynne, for being such a compassionate and dedicated earthling. The world needs more people like you! We are glad that being outdoors brought us the opportunity to help this poor dog! A successful day in the park!
Tree City USA is a national recognition program that began in 1976 when the Arbor Day Foundation partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and National Association of State Foresters to quantify and recognize the immense benefits of trees! Planting and maintaining a local forest has been proven to: build stronger ties to your neighborhood and community, creating meaningful connections to neighbors, cut energy consumption, and even increasing property values.
Committing to the standards of becoming a Tree City encourages the education of the public health and financial benefits of trees!
To become a tree city, your community must fit the 4 core standards:
1. Department or Tree Board
There must be a committee of dedicated citizens willing to assume responsibility for the upkeep of the urban forest. Someone must be legally responsible for the care of all trees on city- or town-owned property. By delegating tree care decisions to a professional forester, arborist, city department, citizen-led tree board or some combination, city leaders determine who will perform necessary tree work.
2. Tree Care Ordinance
A tree board or forestry department—or both— should assign the task of crafting and implementing a plan of work or for documenting annual tree care activities.Ideally, the ordinance will also provide clear guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees from streets, parks and other public spaces as well as activities that are required or prohibited.
3. A Community Forestry Program With an Annual Budget of at Least $2 Per Capita
As mentioned before, trees are valuable public assets and therefore require an investment to remain healthy and sustainable. By providing support at or above the $2 per capita minimum, a community demonstrates its commitment to maintaining a long-term urban forest. Budgets and expenditures require planning and accountability, which are fundamental to the long-term health of the tree canopy.
4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation
Citizens join together to celebrate the benefits of community trees and the work accomplished to plant and maintain them. By passing and reciting an official Arbor Day proclamation, public officials demonstrate their support for the community tree program and complete the requirements for becoming a Tree City USA!
Do you live in an official Tree City?
As babies develop into inquisitive and curious children it is important that as adults we encourage the behaviors that are essential to their growth. Upon reading Why our kids need forests for true learning by Linda McGurk we took a long thought about America's structured educational system. When children are not old enough to go to school they are taught by the influential adults in their lives. These adults distinctly enunciate the name of the toy or animal they find their children reaching for. As an older sibling with years of babysitting experience- I can confirm that children are more willing to learn when actively engaged in an activity. "Many early childhood experts consider physical activity and unstructured play the two main pillars for learning and a healthy development for preschoolers" McGurk tells us.
So why is it that when we send our children off to school they are told to sit quietly at a desk and stare at a board for 8 hours a day?
After spending the month of August committing to the hashtag #healthytreeshealthylives, we were astounded at all mental and physical benefits of forests. Children are the most vulnerable to these positive influence due to the perennial development of motor and personal skills. Parents across the world have begun enrolling their students in classes taught by the most knowledgeable teacher, mother earth. These classrooms without walls are known as 'forest kindergartens', and are revolutionizing the way we think about early education. The intellectual benefits students receive are remarkable. Through outdoor exploration and physical activity children can strengthen their imaginative capabilities, risk judgment, sense of community involvement and much more.
Running Free in Germany’s Outdoor Preschools by Alice Gregory is another important resource that hilights the benefits o forest kindergartens. The implementation of more outside oriented lessons is something The Grove hopes to see more of.
I am still unable to wrap my head around the intense damage caused by the trifecta of hurricanes hitting the southern coast of US. I have recoiled at devastating images of islands and cities almost obliterated by tropical storms. As I hug my roommate, I mourn for the people that have lost their lives, or have lost everything but.
As 130+ mile winds hit cement lined structures, trees struggle to remain grounded by their roots in the underlying soil. After camping with a group in Wyoming this summer, I quickly learned that the taller your tent (or tree) the more intense the effects of wind will be. Our coastal states have trees that have become national landmarks and important community members to each of their cities. One may assume that these trees gained their title not only from their age but from their height and resilience.
So that makes me ask: what all does it take to be an arborist in these coastal states?
Upon doing research I soon learned that arboriculture is one of the most dangerous industries in the world. Working in potentially bad weather, welding heavy machinery, climbing to high altitudes does not make for safe working conditions.
That being said we are thankful for all our arborist throughout our nation who are still risking their lives to assess and amend the devastating work of natural disasters. Not only is American Grove dedicated to promoting the health of community forests but we want to ensure the health of those who work in the arboriculture industry.
If you are still coping with the aftermath of a natural diaster we have included a few resources from the How to Evaluate and Manage Storm-Damaged Forest Areas and After the Hurricane: Dealing with Damaged Trees as well. Find even more under our Resources tab!
That being said, we would love to hear stories from you! Please use this forum to share any noble, heroic, or typical encounters from your arboriculture job! Just don’t forget to close the story with a happy ending, we are invested in your wellbeing!
And let us not forget about those heroic firefighter out west who have faced an intense fire season with the dedication and motivation needed to protect our national lands!
If you have ever visited a national park, you have benefitted from the important work of the United States Forest Service. This vital agency has been protecting and preserving our nations beloved landscapes for over 100 years. Forest fragmentation, anthropogenic disturbances, and industrialization have altered US’s forests and rangelands, although it may seem like the area of land they protect has begun to dwindle- that has not made the job any easier. Over the past decade the USFS, like our changing landscapes, has adapted strategies for maintaining the fires that are necessary to a healthy ecosystem. These brave men and women are equipped with advanced manpower and technology possible to protect the forests with increased vulnerability. The evolution of fires has called for an increase in man (or woman) power in this agency. That is where the USFS steps in to do the job the landscape desperately needs. In 1995 wildfire cost consumed 16% of USFS budget, while today this budget has risen to 67% of USFS total funding. However, recent behavior an increase in the duration of fire season, fire size, fire behavior demands the USFS be at the top of their game. Fires do not adhere to state lines or jurisdictions so this agency invites local and federal partners to help protect threatened landscapes.
These forces of nature are as mighty as the men and women that fight them. USFS tells us “wildfires can be friend or foe”. This chaotic behavior may seem angrier than your mom after coming home to a sink full of dirty dishes you were supposed to clean. We know of several benefits of these natural occurrences such as clearing brush and pests to provide new healthy environments full of nutrients and space to grow.
Enjoy 3 minutes of this heart wrenching film, accurately titled Fighting Fire with Fire, that provides a small glimpse into the vital and dangerous roles taken on by the USFS.
In addition to this video there are a multitude of other resources offered by the department of USFS such as interactive Esri mapping, and even beta apps that will notify you when there is a fire nearby visit their website to see all their resources here
This video was created by Filson to honor the noble fire fighters on screen and behind the scenes who fight every day to preserve out national landscapes.
As a busy student and web administrator, I find the easiest way to keep track of all my important tasks is to continuously make an updated to-do list, finding absolute pleasuring knowing I can check off completed items. Sometimes I feel like my most productive days are mirrored in nature. Under the impression, I had near overdosed on to-do lists, I began noticing trees that resembled check marks.
After reading An Animated Guide to Nature’s Best Wayfinding Secrets by Sommer Mathis I had a little more confidence in my sanity. Finding a tree that has an uneven growth pattern can be explained by phototropism. The idea of phototropism was observed by Charles Darwin in 1880 through experiments that demonstrated the shoots (or branches/leaves) grew towards the strongest direction of sunlight. This process allows the leaves, undergoing photosynthesis, to optimize the daily amount of food (aka sunlight) received. These chlorophylls filled organisms were sometimes noticed growing more abundantly in a nonlinear pattern. Branches of trees grow directly towards the sun when the beams are the strongest and branches not in a direct line of sunlight will tend to curve to receive ample nutrients. Tristan Gooley, a nature expert, points our attention to the stronger direction of canopy growth.
"On the south side, they can take a fairly direct route. So, they curve toward the sun, which creates a slightly more horizontal branch. On the north side, they’re still trying to grow toward the light, but they can’t take a direct route because the trunk and the rest of the tree are in the way. So, they end up growing towards the sky." Tristan Gooley contributes the “check effect” present in all green organism but more noticeable in trees.
Interestingly enough, (negative) phototropism can also describe the growth pattern of roots in which this system will burrow deepest in the direction opposite of sunlight. In honor of the upcoming eclipse please share any photos of tree growth influenced by our favorite star!
Enjoy Sommer Mathis entire article (here) on Tristan Gooley's top 5 prudent tips on navigating nature accompanying by 4 more breathtaking animations from the super talented Chelsea Beck.
Animation by: Chelsea Beck
This morning I was lucky enough to be able to join my grandfather, a healthy and energetic 84, on his morning routine. He walks approx, 2 miles around his neighborhood to breathe fresh air and admire another beautiful day on this earth. During our stroll, he told me stories of his younger days, learning he had spent a few years employed by the lumber industry. Intrigued by the history of one of my role models, I am always engrossed by the stories of his early adulthood. I find it funny to picture my grandfather at my age, a full head of hair with all his original teeth. We laughed together as we tried to name all the different types of maples when we came to the end of the cul-de-sac. As we began our U-turn I stopped at an unusual tree. Pictured below.
Describing the photo above, a thin young maple with a collection of branches at the top. However, these branches were completely bare, an odd growth pattern for mid-August. Only a small cluster at the base of the trunk had leaves. I had seen this shrub like presence in trees before but never as distinct as this instance. It appeared that the bottom clump of leaves had stolen from the rest of the tree, impeding the ‘blood flow’ of nutrients throughout this cypress. With the combined tree knowledge between my grandfather and me, neither could identify the circumstance. With the help of Heather Rhoades from Gardening Know How we learned that these low shrub limbs have been dubbed ‘suckers’ for their vampire like tendencies.
Suckers can be common in trees that have undergone a stressful planting, transplant, or an inadequate environment. However, a low-stress environment, perfect water portions, and maintenance can prevent this in your community forest.
Although if a tree has already begun to grow suckers it is best to remove them as soon as possible. Heather Rhoades notes “Tree sucker removal is easy to do. Tree sucker removal is done in the same way pruning is performed. Using a sharp, clean pair of pruning shears, cleanly cut the plant sucker as close to the tree as possible, but leave the collar (where the tree sucker meets the tree) to help speed the wound recovery."
Whenever I saw a tree sucker I had thought it was an innocent commencalism relationship between tree and shrub. Now with new knowledge gained from Gardening Know How I now view these trees as a little more human knowing these giants get acne too.
The year is 2017 and the battle has begun in the produce section, organic and GMO. From a young age, I was told 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away', I think about this a lot when doing a weekly refill of apples. I pride myself on the fact that I truly do eat an apple a day, however over the years I can't help but notice the sheer size of these fruits. I held a granny smith apple in my hand that was larger than a nearby navel orange.
So I began to think about how technology has influenced produce throughout the years, more specifically grafting. Grafting is the process of inserting a small branch (or scion) into the trunk of another tree to manipulate the species. MotherEarthNews has posted an insightful article illustrating benefits of grafting, such as: increasing tree height, cloning trees, and saving existing trees after a devastating pruning incident.
Learn from Lee Reich's experiences as he supplies comprehensive details (and photos) regarding the process of fruit tree grafting!
Check out these beautiful maps from the US Department of Agriculture depicting the distribution of forest ownership throughout the nation.
Although it has been around since 2011, I have just discovered a free app called 'Leafsnap'! This mobile application can identify trees just from a picture of leaves or flowers. This app currently only includes trees found in the Northeastern US, but will soon grow to include the trees of the entire continental United States.
In the last few years the University of Massachusetts Amherst has offered a Summer Program on trees and tree care for high school students. This year, the one-week session will take place July 9-15. This is a great opportunity for high school students to learn about arboriculture and urban forestry and be exposed to an exciting area of study and career path. And it's a great opportunity to spend some time in a lovely New England town in western Massachusetts!
Learning to climb trees at UMass Summer College
Through the study of trees and the impact of their health on urban communities, students in the Sustainable Tree Care program will take a proactive approach to climate as they learn what they can do now and in the future to make their communities greener. Trees provide many benefits in cities and towns like shading houses and cleaning the air and water; they also improve our quality of life. To maximize these benefits, we have to plant the right tree for a site and properly care for it. If we do, the benefits that the tree provides will far outweigh the cost of caring for the tree. In this 1-week intensive, we will learn about proper tree selection and care.
This program covers a number of earth science-related topics including: botany, physiology, soil composition, run-off, and pollution. Students will also receive hands-on experiential training in: identifying trees, identifying disease in trees, climbing trees (knot tying, ascension, limb walking, tree worker safety), pruning, plant health care, and pest management.
This 1-week intensive will balance academic study of the science and business of arboriculture while offering an introduction to the basic skills required to work in the field.
Learn more about the Sustainable Tree Care Summer College Program by clicking here.
Summer College programs are open to rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. High school seniors who will graduate this spring are also welcome. To find out more about the application process, click here and scroll down.
This post is in memory of one of the world’s tallest known pines. Big Pine campground became a designated spot for hikers, 20 miles southwest of Grant’s Pass. The big pine that dominated the landscape enjoyed many years of worldwide travelers looking to sneak a peak at its glorious countenance. Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest’s giant pine measured to an astounding 250 feet before it met its untimely demise, another victim of the ruthless pine beetle.
This prominent tree made the 1989 heritage tree list commemorating the 200th anniversary of the signing of the U. S. Constitution. This tree, among only 60 other trees nationwide, was a designated Living Witness Tree for the U. S. Constitution Bicentennial. The bark of these pines can be traced to a time where they were crafted into a canoe to assist Lewis and Clark as they crossed the Columbian river. These prehistoric trees are a testimony to the history of our nation, describing the vitality of America’s canopy as far back as the signing of the constitution.
The health of our forests is important to our future, as they have played a huge role in the history that has shaped our nation. The ecological importance of America’s old growth is boundless, present during a time in which no living humans remain. Local ecosystems persist around them and thrive because of them. Historic trees preserve national secrets as well as demonstrate the resilience of our nation. We hope the legacy of the Ponderosa Pine of Grant Pass in the form of its bronzed plaque can be preserved in the Smithsonian Museum of American History for future generations to admire.
Despite its passing, this tree still stands. Nearby campgrounds have been closed for the safety of travelers.
Michael Oxman, an ISA arborist committed to getting the marker to the Smithsonian, brought the passing of this pine to our attention.
Background information regarding Ponderosa Pines graciously provided by NPR. The article titled Ponderosa Pines: Rugged Trees With A Sweet Smell composed by Daniel Kraker can be found here: http://www.npr.org/2009/08/17/111803772/ponderosa-pines-rugged-trees-with-a-sweet-smell
As well as information provided by Terry Richard who composed World's tallest ponderosa pine climbed, measured at 268 feet outside Grants Pass. This article can be found here: http://blog.oregonlive.com/terryrichard/2011/12/worlds_tallest_ponderosa_pine.html#comments
Check out a recent article from National Geographic highlighting unique trees from around the world. Some of the featured giants compose our nation's canopy, hailing from California, Utah and New York groves.
Note: this page contains paid content.
Please, subscribe to get an access.