Tag Archives: trees

Trees are virtual air conditioners that save millions in electricity, water, carbon

 

An article from The Atlantic focuses on the value of trees:

I was approached by someone from an initiative called San Diego County Trees…(a project) extolling the benefits of urban trees. I just spent time on the website, where the coolest feature is an interactive map of the whole county showing very specific tree locations and information, including quantified benefits…(like) carbon sequestration, water retention, energy saved, and air pollutants reduced.

 

Wow! Look at that image…millions of dollars in savings, water conservation, improved air quality. That is impressive.

Some more facts include, “the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day,” and the energy savings of planting a tree on the sunny side of your house (3% after 5 years, 12% after 15 years).

I love trees.

Growing coffee trees in California

In this day of the $6 cup of coffee, when bragging rights mean knowing not only the varietal but the beans’ latitude, anything exotic gets the antennae waving. Which may explain why Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics is inundated with requests to visit his north Santa Barbara County farm, where he is the only person cultivating coffee in California. He’s been turning down the requests—until now. This month the curious can sign up online for an agritour and the chance to see how Ruskey coaxes a plant inextricably tied to Latin America and Africa to flourish on U.S. soil.

The coffee-growing experiment is part of the UC small farms initiative, which supplied Ruskey with bushes and an expert, Mark Gaskell, who has worked in Central America. While coffee is normally grown at altitudes approaching thousands of feet, Ruskey’s farm sits at 650. The beans thrive in his coastal canyon largely because of the lack of extreme cold or heat and the low winds.

via Los Angeles Magazine

 

Ruskey's Coffee Trees

 

He now has 470 trees in the ground, which would fill half an acre if they had been planted in a continuous block. By chance, he planted the young trees among mature avocado trees and found that the two were good companions, as the coffee benefited from the rich soil generated by the avocado trees’ mulch.

…his mature trees are mostly Typica, the Arabica type from which most others developed, and Caturra, a mutation of Bourbon discovered in Brazil. He also has 100 young trees of Geisha, a rare Panamanian strain of Ethiopian origin, legendary for its superb quality.

He is sufficiently convinced of the feasibility of his project that he and Gaskell are working to organize a Santa Barbara coffee growers association with several other farmers who have planted or committed to planting coffee trees.

via Los Angeles Times

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Among the Ancients

Of all the literary themes out there trees happen to be one of my favorite. One of the best authors in this genre is, surprisingly, fantasy giant J.R.R. Tolkein. In his series of novels, The Lord of The Rings, he goes on endlessly about trees giving them an entire culture and personifying them with eyes, mouths, legs, wives, and even a flock (of trees) to shepherd. He is fascinatingly descriptive and beautiful, and, unfortunately, none of that made it into the the movie versions.

In some ways Tolkein was a vanguard, ahead of his time, as modern science is revealing just how important trees are to the environment. In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond discusses how entire societies failed due to mismanagement of trees (cutting too many down). He digs into the research uncovering how trees and tree roots tie together entire ecosystems and without them catastrophic events happen like wildfires, species extinction, desertification, and more.

If you dig into the tree world you quickly realize that one particular group is the CEO of the forests. The boss, the elder, and the strongest. Trees that in every way dominate the ecosystem. They are the old trees, well old in terms of human beings. In their world they are simply several hundred years old and considered middle age.

A grouping of these trees together is called an Old-Growth Forest. Among the characteristics of these groupings are an incredible resistance to forest fires, copious amounts of wildlife (including rare and threatened species), and even an ability to affect weather patterns. It is quite common for developments to pave into these old forests only to find that fires suddenly become a problem or see the land turn dry and become a desert.

If this fascinates you or if you just want to visit an Old-Growth Forest than I have the book for you, Among the Ancients, Adventures in the Eastern Old-Growth Forests.

The author, Joan Maloof, has personally visited each one and brought back meticulous detail about how to get there and what to look for. I want to call it a field guide but it is more than that. She provides narration and descriptions in the middle of the “turn-left here” moments.

Take this description:

“The webs I saw were a few inches across and not the type strung between branches; instead they were like webby sheets attached to ridges in the bark. As I looked closer I noticed, somewhere on each of these webs, a circular hole receding from the surface down toward the trunk like a funnel. This was the work of a funnel-web spider”

“The sheet of web isn’t sticky like a most other webs; it functions more like the head of a drum. When a small insect causes the web to vibrate, the spider senses it an zooms out of its funnel hole. He captures the insects, bites it, wraps it in silk, and drags it down the hole. Some types of spiders spin a new web every evening, but the funnel-web keeps the same one all year, making repairs as necessary.”

It’s a beautiful description of the funnel-web spider and it instantly brought me back to my own adventures in nature. I can picture that strong white funnel web and the spider sneaking around behind it. It offers such a tantalizing view into the abundant wildlife in old-growth forests. Places where you can find creatures beyond your wildest imagination.

The book covers the entire east coast (South, North, Mid) and I have read through all the adventures in my native Mid-Atlantic neighborhood, and I can’t wait to go through the other regions. A few brief glances at them have offered delightful glimpses of exotic creatures and forests.

If you are a nature lover or if any of this has grabbed your attention then the book is definitely worth checking out.

More information about the book can be found at Ruka Press, a local Washington D.C. based publishing company committed to environmental principles in book publishing.