The Kilimanjaro region of East Africa is one of the most threatened ecosystems on earth. Millions of people and several endangered species depend on the snows and rains of Kilimanjaro for survival. As land use encroaches further into local forests, water flows are changing and conflicts with wildlife are rising. A nonprofit organization in Tanzania hopes to reverse those trends with a comprehensive forest conservation, reforestation and community-engagement program.
The Mellowswan Foundation Africa-Tanzania will defend the greater Kilimanjaro ecosystem with more than 10 million new seedlings, community engagement, wildlife conservation strategies and more. They will educate local stakeholders about sustainable forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife management. Unlike past reforestation efforts in the region, it will focus on local needs and long-term sustainability. The seedlings are indigenous species that can help restore and protect the integrity of the ecosystem, while helping rural communities thrive as stewards of the land.
Unfortunately, forests across the region are retreating under the pressures of agriculture and communities that depend on firewood.
Climate change is impacting every continent. Deforestation and intensive agriculture are contributing to the problem. Fortunately, forest conservation, reforestation, and sustainable agriculture are part of the solution.
The foundation plans to save wildlife, capture carbon and reduce deforestation on a massive scale. This investment will benefit the entire planet, while preserving a world treasure.
“Cities can help sponsor the program and claim the carbon credits as one of the many benefits,” said Gary Chandler, founder of Sacred Seedlings, a global coalition that promotes forest conservation, reforestation and coexistence with wildlife. “This is much more than a carbon capture program. Our sponsors will help defend entire ecosystems.”
Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting sustainable, resilient and livable cities. Please contact Gary Chandler at email@example.com to join our network.
Neighborhood Green Space Good For Mental, Physical Health
Studies have shown that natural environments can enhance health. But how much could a tree in the street or a nearby neighborhood park improve our health? Several scientists examined this issue by studying the relationship between health and neighborhood green space. They compared the impacts of trees along streets vs. tree canopy in parks and private residences.
It is a known fact that urban trees improve air quality, reduce cooling and heating energy use, and make urban environments aesthetically more preferable. Importantly, several studies have shown that exposure to green spaces can be psychologically and physiologically restorative by promoting mental health, reducing non-accidental mortality, reducing physician assessed-morbidity, reducing income-related health inequality’s effect on morbidity, reducing blood pressure and stress levels, reducing sedentary leisure time, as well as promoting physical activity. In addition, green space may enhance psychological and cardio-vascular benefits of physical activity, as compared with other settings.
Moreover, experimental research has demonstrated that interacting with natural environments can have beneficial effects – after brief exposures – on memory and attention for healthy individuals and for patient populations. In addition, having access to views of natural settings (from a home or a hospital bed, for example) have been found to reduce crime and aggression and improve recovery from surgery.
Although many studies have shown that natural environments enhance health or encourage healthy behaviors, to our knowledge, fewer studies have quantified the relationship between individual trees and health. In addition, studies have not separately estimated the treed area beside the streets and other urban green spaces and related those variables to individuals’ health in various domains, including cardio-metabolic conditions, mental disorders and general health perception. Knowing the kind of green space that may be associated with health benefits would be critical when deciding the type of green space that should be incorporated into built environments to improve health.
The typical method for quantifying exposure to green space for individuals in large population studies is to use the percentage of area covered in green space in an individual’s neighborhood. The size of the areas and the accuracy (and also definition) of green space quantification vary across different studies. For example, used data containing >10 m2 accuracy for green space and geographical units of 4 km2 on average in their study, Richardson et al. (2013) used >200 m2accuracy for green space and geographical units that averaged 5 km2, and used the presence of public “natural” spaces in areas within a 5 km radius from schools to quantify exposure to nature for school-aged children.
In this study, we were interested in examining green space with lower granularity (i.e., higher geographical resolution) and quantifying associations that are specific to exposure to trees, as opposed to exposures to any green space, such as grass or shrubbery. Here, our definition of green space consisted of tree canopy only and not of urban grass or bushes (or other “natural” settings). This choice is based on the assumption that trees are the most consistent green components in an area and potentially the most important component for having beneficial effects.
We also used a much higher geographical resolution for the following reasons. First, we wanted to distinguish between trees along the roads and streets versus those in domestic gardens and parks, and other open areas. To do so, we used individual tree data from the ‘Street Tree General Data’ and tree-canopy polygon data from the ‘Forest and Land Cover’ dataset to construct our green space variables. Both datasets came from the city of Toronto. Second, to ensure that the tree variables were less confounded by health insurance policies as well as demographic parameters (age, sex, education, and income), we used a single urban population (Toronto) in Canada, a country with a universal publicly funded healthcare system that, compared with the United States, guarantees access to health-care services independent of income and/or employment status.
These health-care equalities facilitate the interpretation of the relationships between individual urban trees and health in this urban population. Although financial barriers may not impede access to health care services in Canada, differential use of physician services with respect to socio-economic status persist; Canadians with lower incomes and fewer years of schooling visit specialists at a lower rate than those with moderate or high incomes and higher levels of education despite the existence of universal health care. In particular, we examined the relationship between tree canopy density beside the streets and in other areas such as parks and domestic gardens with an individual’s health.
The health variables evaluated include:
Overall health perception;
Presence of cardio-metabolic conditions such as hypertension, high blood glucose, obesity (both overweight and obese), high cholesterol, myocardiac infarction, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes; and
Mental health problems including major depression, anxiety, and addiction. Subjective self-rated health perception was chosen as one of the health outcomes because self-perception of health has been found to be related to morbidity and mortality rates and is a strong predictor of health status and outcomes in both clinical and community settings.
Furthermore, on the tree variable side, we distinguished tree canopy of trees beside the street from those planted in other areas, such as parks and private backyards. A distinction of these different sources of tree canopy may be helpful for urban planning policies. We hypothesized that street trees could have stronger beneficial associations with individual’s health because they may be more accessible to all residents in a given neighborhood as residents are likely exposed to street trees in their daily activities and through views from their windows.
Our results suggest that people who live in areas that have more (and/or larger) trees on the streets report better health perception. this increase in health perception is equivalent to the effect of a $10,200 increase in annual household income. This same increase in health perception is also, on average, equivalent to being 7 years younger.
Results suggest that people who live in areas that have more (and/or larger) trees on the streets report significantly fewer cardio-metabolic conditions. Results suggest that people who live in areas that have more (and/or larger) trees on the streets report significantly fewer cardio-metabolic conditions. This decrease in cardio-metabolic conditions is also, on average, equivalent to being 1.4 years younger.
The second important finding is that the health associations with tree density were not found (in a statistically reliable manner) for tree density in areas other than beside the streets and along local roads. It seems that trees that affect people most generally are those that they may have the most contact (visual or presence) with, which we are hypothesizing to be those planted along the streets. Another possible explanation could be that trees on the street may be more important to reductions in air pollution generated by traffic through dry deposition.
This does not indicate, however, that parks are not beneficial. This study only shows that planting trees along the roads may be more beneficial than planting trees in parks and private residences at least for these health measures.
Property owners in Portland need to think twice before chopping down trees. A new city tree code took effect in January. It brings new protections to trees on both public and private property, along with stricter regulations and tough penalties for violators.
It takes away a lot of the confusion about what you can do with trees, says Portland landscape contractor Greg Schifsky. “It also sends a message that we treasure our trees.”
Schifsky was part of a core group of neighborhood activists who started lobbying the city back in 2005 to 2006 to improve its jumbled tree-cutting regulations. For a city that prided itself on its greenery, a lot of important trees kept disappearing, he says, “and a lot of them were being taken down for not very good reasons.”
Developers also were frustrated, because patchwork tree regulations were embedded in many parts of the city code. Regulations were inconsistent and administered by seven different city bureaus, which in Portland can seem like seven different local governments.
“The department of transportation would tell you to take out a trees and the planning department would say ‘No, we don’t want you to do that,’ ” says Justin Wood, associate director of government relations for the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland.
After several years of citizen pressure, stakeholder meetings and public hearings, the City Council adopted a new tree code in 2011. Though some homebuilders still don’t see why a city tree code is necessary, “as tree codes go, I think it’s a pretty fair tree code,” Wood says.
The biggest shock will come from homeowners, he predicts, who aren’t accustomed to being told they can’t cut down trees on their property. One-third of all the trees in the city are on single-family lots, and most of those previously were unregulated.
“The old tree code was not consistent and as fair as it could be,” says Meryl Redisch, who worked closely on the tree code as a member of the city’s Urban Forestry Commission. It had very different treatment for trees in development situations and those that aren’t, Redisch says.
The new code seeks to change that, but it may make some people unhappy. From now on, residents will need to apply for a $25 city permit before taking down any tree on their property with a diameter of 12 inches or greater, measured 4.5 feet off the ground. They will have the right to remove up to four trees per year from their yard if the trees have a diameter of 20 inches or less — though that will require permits. Residents may be required to plant a higher number of replacement trees elsewhere, so the city doesn’t see its overall tree canopy reduced.
Permits also are required before pruning tiny branches off street trees with diameters of a quarter-inch or greater. Generally, the city will only allow full removal of street trees on the public right of way if they’re dead, dying or dangerous. Residents won’t be able to take them down just because they produce a lot of leaves, make too much shade, or obstruct views.
“A big part of it is going to be education,” Redisch says. City arborists will seek to counsel residents who might otherwise be too hasty about removing trees from their property, she says. Neighbors will be notified of some tree-cutting permit applications, giving them a greater voice in protecting iconic trees in a neighborhood.
The message from the new code is that saving big trees has benefits that extend far beyond an individual homeowner, applying to future generations on that property, neighbors and the city as a whole.
The Benefits Of Saving Trees
“What we get are air-quality improvements, shade, storm water benefits, wildlife habitat, beauty, enjoyment — those are the easy ones,” says Redisch, the recently retired executive director of the Audubon Society of Portland.
Trees also have been shown to reduce asthma, make people calmer and absorb pollutants. Perhaps most importantly, they counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
A greater tree canopy over Portland also can help lower the “urban heat island” effect, which makes the city much hotter than surrounding areas because of the loss of tree canopy here and preponderance of roads, sidewalks, parking lots and rooftops that retain the sun’s rays. That’s expected to become more significant as the climate warms.
The new tree code will preserve more trees on developable land, says Jeff Fish, a homebuilder who was involved in framing the regulations. But the code is more flexible in some cases than before, he says, an acknowledgement that meeting the city’s goals of boosting density means building more homes.
“We have to take some trees down to build a house,” Fish says. If the ordinance makes it much harder to do infill and other development in the city, it will cause more sprawl — and greater tree removal — on land outside the urban growth boundary, he says.
But Fish and others still wonder how well the advice of stakeholders and citizens gets put in practice.
“We’ll find out as we implement this in January how good the code-writers wrote the code to make this work,” he says.
Contrary to stereotypes, homebuilders often recognize the merits of preserving trees.
“A tree can add $2,500 worth of value or more” to a home on the market, Fish says, “so most of us don’t take down any more trees than we have to.”
It also can cost them up to $2,000 to $4,000 to chop down and remove a large Douglas fir.
By design, the new tree code should help meet the city’s goal of having one-third of its land area covered with tree canopy. The city estimates the new code will preserve one to two acres of tree canopy on private property per year and result in the planting of six to 30 acres of new tree canopy each year.
On development lands, the code is projected to preserve 44 acres to 88 acres of tree canopy a year, and result in the planting of 48 acres to 96 acres a year. Some of that is because the old standards only applied to single-family developments, while the new tree-cutting restrictions apply to all developable land. The city also is setting tree-density requirements; developers who don’t meet those can put money into a city tree-planting fund.
City officials delayed implementation of the new code until they could afford seven new city staff members to enforce it. As a result, the city is promising improved customer service. The Bureau of Development Services and Portland Parks & Recreation will administer the ordinance, down from seven bureaus before. Two staff members will be stationed at the city Permit Center downtown to answer questions and issue permits. A new hotline and website will serve as a clearinghouse for information about the new rules.
And, not surprising, stiff new fines will be imposed for those who don’t obey the new rules, including $1,000 for those who fail to get permits. The city has promised to go easy on enforcement in the early days at least, until Portlanders learn about their new responsibilities. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees both bureaus managing the program, has appointed a citizen oversight committee. That group, which includes Fish, will monitor how well the tree code is working out, and suggest any needed changes. It will make regular reports to the Urban Forestry Commission, now led by Redisch.
Need Policies To Stop Urban Deforestation, Promote Reforestation
A multi-state team from universities in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland are working to advance the profession of urban forestry. The team led by researchers at Virginia Tech has launched Urban Forestry 2020. The project aims to examine the challenges faced by the urban forestry profession and devise strategies for advancing the profession.
The project also includes representatives from Virginia State University, West Virginia University and the University of Maryland. It is partially funded by the U.S. Forest Service.
Urban forestry is the management of trees and green spaces in communities to enhance quality of life and protect the environment. Team officials say that while the profession has advanced rapidly over the last 20 years, there are many issues that need to be faced to move it forward.
“The beauty of the urban forestry profession is its interdisciplinary nature,” said Susan Day, associate professor of urban forestry at Virginia Tech and the project’s lead investigator. “People from diverse backgrounds work together to solve problems with a critical urban natural resource that has a big impact on our day-to-day lives. But the field’s interdisciplinary nature is also a challenge when it comes to networking and education, and the profession is experiencing some growing pains.”
The team has assembled a committee to help guide the project, bringing together leaders in urban forestry and related fields like urban planning, landscape architecture and civil engineering to examine recruitment into urban forestry, accreditation of university urban forestry degree programs, and professional credentialing and networking of urban foresters.
A survey of North American cities by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Global Cool Cities Alliance found that confronting the challenges of extreme weather, adapting to a changing climate, and improving the health and resiliency of urban populations are driving cities to develop and implement strategies to reduce excess urban heat.
Nearly two thirds of the cities surveyed cited local extreme weather events as a key reason for initiating urban heat island mitigation strategies.
“U.S. cities are waking up to the growing threat of urban heat and employing a number of innovative approaches suited to their location and priorities,” said ACEEE researcher and report author Virginia Hewitt. “Our report will help local planners adapt these practices to even more communities across the country.”
ACEEE and GCCA surveyed 26 cities in the U.S. and Canada representing all of the major climate zones, geographies, and city sizes. Despite the diversity of the respondents, several common themes emerged. Local governments are “leading by example” by requiring use of “cool” technologies, such as reflective roofs on municipal buildings, lining city streets with shade trees, and raising public awareness. Additionally, more than half of the cities have some kind of requirement in place for reflective and vegetated roofing for private sector buildings. Almost every city had policies to increase tree canopy and manage storm water.
“Our report finds that by addressing their urban heat islands, cities are more effectively delivering core public health and safety services, making them attractive places to live, work, and play,” said Kurt Shickman, executive director of the Global Cool Cities Alliance.
The report includes case studies on how several cities have responded to urban heat, demonstrating the variety of strategies employed. In response to a study that found that Houston’s roofs and pavements can reach 160⁰F, the city now requires most flat roofs in the city to be reflective. After an extreme heat wave in 2008, Cincinnati lost much of its urban canopy, and instituted an aggressive forestry plan. Washington D.C. has instituted a wide suite of programs such as Green Alleys, which helps residents manage excess stormwater by replacing pavement with grass and trees, and requiring reflective roofs on all new buildings.
The survey also found that most city governments are not acting alone to reduce excess heat. States, neighboring jurisdictions, utilities, developers, contractors, and local building owners are collaborating to create incentives for communities to reduce urban heat and mainstream these practices.
“We recognized a number of years ago that keeping New York cooler was an important part of protecting public health and becoming more resilient. We started with cool-roof volunteer programs that raised awareness and understanding, while coating 5 million square feet of rooftops. These voluntary efforts led to the cool roof ordinance requiring investments in reflective roofs on certain buildings,” said Wendy Dessy of NYC Service.
Urban forests will play an even more important role as we seek solutions to maximize the quality of life in our cities, while reducing energy consumption and maximizing the uptake of carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants.
Sacred Seedlings is a reforestation (including urban forestry) and carbon offset program operated in cooperation with indigenous groups around the globe. Those who have always lived closest to the earth, and respected it the most, are putting their wisdom to work to help save the planet and their cultures for future generations.
Fortunately, many communities are taking steps to minimize their impacts on the environment and to minimize the threats that natural disasters pose to them. Our urban forests are a vital part of the equation. Saving and planting as many trees as possible offers multiple benefits, including:
Offset carbon in the atmosphere, reduce energy consumption and air pollution.
Reforest tribal lands, public lands, inner cities, and private property around the globe.
Preserve wildlife habitat and green spaces for communities.
Generate jobs for indigenous people around the globe.
Green space in towns and cities could lead to significant and sustained improvements in mental health, finds a new study published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology.
Analyzing data that followed people over a five year period, the research has found that moving to a greener area not only improves people’s mental health, but that the effect continues long after they have moved.
The findings add to evidence that suggests increasing green spaces in cities – such as parks and gardens – could deliver substantial benefits to public health.
The research is one of the first studies to consider the effects of green space over time and has used data from the British Household Panel Survey, a repository of information gathered from questionnaires filled in by households across Great Britain.
Using data from over 1,000 participants, the research team at the University of Exeter Medical School focused on two groups of people: those who moved to greener urban areas, and those who relocated to less green urban areas.
They found that, on average, movers to greener areas experienced an immediate improvement in mental health that was sustained for at least 3 years after they moved. The study also showed that people relocating to a more built up area suffered a drop in mental health. Interestingly this fall occurred before they moved; returning to normal once the move was complete.
The authors adjusted their data to remove effects from other factors likely to affect mental health over time ?” such as income, employment and education – as well as factors related to personality. Lead researcher, Dr Ian Alcock, believes the study’s results could have important implications:
“We’ve shown that individuals who move to greener areas have significant and long-lasting improvements in mental health. These findings are important for urban planners thinking about introducing new green spaces to our towns and cities, suggesting they could provide long term and sustained benefits for local communities.”
In 2012 the World Health Organisation cited depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide, and this study builds on research that has found natural environments could act as vital resources to improve health and wellbeing.
Yet up until now, scientists have been unsure how these effects vary over time. Co-author of the paper, Dr Mathew White, says this research has provided an important insight into the mechanism:
“We needed to answer important questions about how the effects of green space vary over time. Do people experience a novelty effect, enjoying the new green area after the move, but with the novelty then wearing off? Or do they take time to realise the benefits of their new surroundings as they gradually get to know local parks? What we’ve found suggests that the mental health benefits of green space are not only immediate, but sustainable over long periods of time.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has set aside funds to provide grants to applicants that wish to create or implement a“Leading Edge” Urban Forestry and Urban Greening Project or Program. The funding level of eachCAL FIREUrban & Community Forestry grant program may be adjusted based on the applications received.
The CAL FIRE Urban & Community Forestry Program works to optimize the benefits of trees and related vegetation through multiple-objective projects that provide environmental services and cost-effective solutions to the needs of urban communities and local agencies, including, but not limited to, increased water supply, clean air and water, reduced energy use, flood and storm water management, recreation, urban revitalization, improved public health, and producing useful products such as biofuel, clean energy, and high quality wood. Such efforts play a significant role in meeting the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. We encourage citizen participation in the development and implementation of state and local agency and non-profit organization urban forestry programs and projects.
Eligible applicants include cities, counties, qualifying districts, or nonprofit organizations qualified under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (PRC 5096.605). Districts include, but are not limited to, school, park, recreation, water, and local taxing districts. Urban & Community Forestry Leading Edge Projects Grant 2012-2013
A unique tree-planting program would like to put a piece of history in your yard. The Famous & Historic Tree Program is an environmental education concept combining contemporary conservation with our nation’s heritage.
Young trees that are direct descendants of trees planted by – or associated with – George Washington, Betsy Ross, Martin Luther King, and 130 other famous people and places are available for planting, said Neil Sampson, vice president of American Forests, the nonprofit group sponsoring the program.
“We’ve identified trees all across America and around the world that are associated with significant people or events in history,” he said. “From the seeds of those one-of-a-kind trees, we grow small healthy trees and make them available for sale.”
Included in the group’s catalog are descendants of trees that witnessed the landing of Columbus, the American Revolution and the bloody battles of the Civil War. Others were nurtured by presidents, inventors, artists, heroes and other accomplished Americans.
George Washington, for instance, planted numerous trees at his home in Mount Vernon, Va. The program’s George Washington tulip poplar dates back to 1785 and is the largest of the living trees planted by the first president, said Sampson.
Other famous trees come from the lives of Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, John James Audubon, Edgar Allen Poe, Hellen Keller, Jesse Owens, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
One of the most popular selections involves trees from Walden Woods in Concord, Mass. Since this is where Henry David Thoreau lived and wrote from 1845 to 1847, it has been a sacred tract of land to many. Singer Don Henley and other celebrities have helped with the group’s Walden Woods Tree Project, aimed at stopping development on the land.
“One-third of the purchase price of each Famous & Historic Tree benefits the tree-planting and preservation efforts of American Forests,” Sampson said. “To date, more than 10,000 trees have been sold to more than 2,000 individuals, corporations and community organizations.”
Each of the one- to three-foot seedlings comes from the group’s nursery in Jacksonville, Fla. The trees sell for $35 and are guaranteed to grow. The tree also comes with a certificate of authenticity, fertilizer, planting instructions, a protective net and a stake for added support, Sampson said.
The Benefits Of Trees To Cities, Citizens
Forest restoration is a global issue, but planting a tree is a very local action. Through our Global ReLeaf program, American Forests works with communities of all sizes to get the right trees planted where they are needed. We have worked with Roanoke, Virgina; Houston, Texas; Washington, DC; and many other cities to increase their tree canopies. We have also been involved with smaller projects, like planting 331 trees at the Boston Nature Center to help mitigate the impact of rapid development nearby. View the rest of our urban projects here.The city of Baltimore, for example, estimates that its 2.8 million trees store 527 tons of carbon and remove 244 metric tons of ground-level ozone annually. It also estimates that its trees reduce energy costs citywide by $3.3 million a year.
Urban trees are a vital part of a functioning ecosystem. City trees can significantly reduce stormwater runoff, which pollutes local streams. Trees also absorb dangerous chemicals and other pollutants in the soil and can either store the pollutants or make them less harmful. Portland, Oregon, for example, is trying to increase its tree canopy from 26 percent to 33 percent by planting 83,000 trees to help manage stormwater. Other major cities — including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Phoenix — are also increasing their tree canopies.
Trees improve air quality by taking in carbon dioxide and other air pollution and releasing oxygen. They also intercept airborne particles and muffle urban noise. Their shade and evaporation create microclimates cooler than the surrounding sunny areas, cutting down on pollution and reducing the urban heat island effect.
Trees can also increase a home’s value and reduce energy use. Deciduous trees on the east, west and south sides of a house can significantly reduce summer cooling costs. Besides shading the structure itself, trees can shade a heat pump compressor to make it work more efficiently. In winter, evergreens that block the wind on the north side of a house can reduce heating costs.
Founded in 1875, the American Forests organization itself is part of America’s history. It is the country’s oldest nonprofit citizens conservation organization, he said. For more information about the program, call 1-800-320-TREE. Or visit www.AmericanForests.org
Earth Fact: Millions of tree-planting spaces are available around homes and businesses in towns and cities around the world. Planting those trees could save billions each year in energy costs. Those energy savings would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from energy production by millions of tons per year.