The Art of Tree Management

“We managed light, we paint with light, and we paint with shade in our trees.”

A couple walks through the light and shadows created by an urban forest. Photo credit to Natalie Cheel

This is how Dr. Kim Coder begins his recent discussion of tree management on Arbor Views, the podcast for the International Society of Arboriculture.

What a unique way to describe how arborists integrate trees into our environment! They work with the absence and presence of light yet, their art sets its course in a potential stage, and arborists must continue to negotiate with the trees themselves in order to manipulate their benefits and obstacles.

“All the benefits we derive from trees, many of those things actually are a proxy for how healthy the crown is, how healthy the green stuff is. We can make bigger stronger trees …which is what arbor care is all about”

Several simple models help us develop each tree’s potential growth. This gives us better clues to evaluate how our own trees are doing. In fact, 78-82% of the weight mass of a tree is from water:

“If you look at a tree, if we had infrared vision, we could see that in a nice sunny day, it’s a fountain of water … below the leaves, coming from that crown is just a bubbling cauldron of water vapor.”

That description illustrates how Dr. Coder found that about 80% of all variation in tree development is due to water – whether there’s too much or too little or how the aeration process for the water vapor is managed.

This type of research demonstrates the greatest tool we have to manipulate the soil or the branches, and guide the tree as our paintbrush. But also, this research teaches us that more patience is necessary for letting the tree figure out its issues.

Who knew tree scientists are artists painting the canvas of our cities with light!

reLeaf-ing Seattle

The City of Seattle’s Trees for Neighborhoods program is up and running, taking applications from residents for up to 4 free trees to keep the city green. Many tree species even have wait-lists! As a public partnership with the community, Green Cities wants to highlight four majestic trees that are still available….for now! If you have room for these larger trees in your yard, they will bring that much more value to our urban forest for years to come.

Frontier Elm

– Frontier Elm –
The Frontier Elm is a unique cultivar of Chinese and European elms. While most elms turn yellow in autumn,  ‘Frontier’ is a trail blazer with striking burgundy-red foliage. An exciting addition to your backyard!

– Japanese Cedar –
Despite its name the Japanese cedar isn’t really a cedar, instead this bluish needled tree is a member of the Cypress family. An evergreen with true year-round interest!

A young Western Red Cedar

 – Western Red Cedar –
Lewis and Clark thought that Western red cedars were amazing enough to be called the “trees of life” -arbor vitae. Plant one in your backyard and bring life to your neighborhood!

– Fernleaf Beech –
The Romans believed carrying around a piece of beech wood could bring good luck. Let the Fernleaf beech bring good fortune to your yard with its whimsically shaped leaves, and help to increase your neighborhoods tree cover!

You can get your own through Seattle reLeaf’s Trees for Neighborhoods program!

The Trouble with Storms

There are a ton of benefits that trees provide for our cities, neighborhoods, and homes that we can take for granted. Last week we mentioned that a large percentage of the monetary value provided by trees is by mitigating stormwater.

In the Gulf coast, the damage from both the drought and flooding are disrupting city and rural life as Ivan (now a Tropical Storm) passes. Although here in Washington State we don’t encounter hurricanes, all urban folk rely on cities to take care of water flowing through our soil and over our roads. Cities provided the infrastructure to collect, distribute, and treat stormwater and sewage at once, meaning that the pipes and tunnels can get overwhelmed when storms occur.

Here in King County, the Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) is concerned about overflows that can occur when the system’s capacity is overwhelmed by stormwater. This causes environmental and health problems when overflows contain more than just stormwater, but also some sewage. The WTD’s project for Bioretention is one way the county takes advantage of the natural absorptive power of vegetation.

From the Arbor Day Foundation’s publication “Tree City USA” Bulletin 55

Trees are great at managing stormwater runoff from the leaves disrupting rainfall, to the roots system’s

storage of rainwater. According  to the Alliance for Community Trees, mature trees can hold 50 to 100 gallons of water during large storms. Strategic tree planting can relieve pressure off of more traditional infrastructure – Detroit reduced overflow in 2010 by 10-20% in volume, saving about 159 million dollars a year. Trees are an effective, environmentally-friendly solution to an expensive problem.

Free Trees for your Restoration Site!

Forterra’s exciting new C3 program (Carbon Capturing Companies), spearheaded by Pearl Jam, is working to engage local businesses about their carbon footprint.  In addition, this is creating an amazing opportunity for community-lead tree planting for carbon sequestration.

ImageA bunch of great local companies from the Seattle Sounders and Seahawks to Cherry St. Coffee and Molly Moon’s Ice Cream have committed to reducing their carbon usage and sequestering carbon through tree planting. These efforts will be completed on urban parks in the communities where the businesses work and their customers live and play.

Submission period has been extended through September 10th!

Forterra is looking for homes for these companies’ carbon. This means free trees!  Native conifers will be available in the late fall to all who apply and agree to maintain and monitor the trees through their establishment. Application and more information available on the Forterra webpage.

For questions, email me: wbrinkley@forterra.org

Why Trees Matter

Jim Robbins’ recent op-ed piece in the New York Times got a lot of people talking about trees.

The article mentions many of the benefits of trees that we also celebrate here at Green Cities: trees as natural water filters, air filters, shade for the urban heat island, and more. Trees as stress reducers point to a study out of Japan on the practice of “forest bathing” to improve your health. Forest bathing also appeared in an earlier post.

Robbins also talks about the benefits of trees that are only partly-understood, or not understood at all. The complex systems that include trees seem to be constantly revealing more nuances that effect us and the rest of the planet, like the relationship between decomposing tree leaves and ocean plankton.

We have underestimated the importance of trees. . . We take them for granted, but they are a near miracle.

– Jim Robbins

There are so many reasons that trees matter. Thank you to everyone who volunteered this weekend for an Earth Day work party, and we hope you’ll join us again to celebrate and care for trees all year.

Time to reverse this trend

As if we needed any more reason to keep working to make our cities greener.

An article by Eric Jaffe included in today’s newsletter from the Alliance for Community Trees is titled, “US Cities are Losing 4 Million Trees a Year.” Citing a study by David Nowak and Eric Greenfield from the journal Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, mentioned in an earlier article about tree cover and impervious surfaces, the article paints a rather bleak picture of our national urban landscape.

Starting with a study of 1,000 random points in 20 large American cities, and comparing current digital images with images from 5 years ago, Nowak and Greenfield found “clear trends away from tree coverage and toward impervious coverage.” In 17 out of the 20 cities studies, tree coverage went down statistically. Impervious cover (roads, buildings, and other surfaces where water cannot be absorbed) rose in 16 of the cities. Our own Tacoma, Washington, had the largest increase in impervious surfaces in the entire study. To get an even more random sample of the whole country, they then selected 1,000 points in urban areas across the U.S. and compared those as well to come up with their estimate of an average net loss of 4 million trees from U.S. cities every year. What does this all mean? Fewer trees. More concrete. Lower air and water quality. Higher need for tree protection and environmental health programs in general.

Remaining end-of-season planting projects need all the helping hands they can get in the next month or two, so head to your nearest Green City and find a volunteer opportunity to get your hands dirty. As the days get longer and we start to think of drier weather (not that we’re complaining!), planting season is coming to an end. But, invasive weed removal and other projects going on in spring and summer help prepare the natural corners of our cities for more planting starting next fall. Hope to see you out there in Seattle, Tacoma, Kirkland, Redmond, or Kent. Let’s turn this trend around!

Seattle’s Trees for Neighborhoods Program

Free Single Trees Seeking Tree-Loving Homes in  Seattle

Free trees are waiting for you! Do you live in Seattle? Do you have an empty space in your yard where a beautiful tree could thrive? Are you someone who appreciates trees? Do you like the way their leaves and needles flutter in the wind? Do you like how they smell? Do you think they help your neighborhood look more attractive?

If so, then Seattle reLeaf and Cascade Land Conservancy invite you to apply for up to 4 free trees to plant at home to help keep our city green and healthy.

Our trees are looking for tree-loving homes – but they’ll be gone soon! We have Western red cedars, Deodar cedars, tupelos, and shore pines remaining. Might you be the person for them? Please fill out the application, and select one of the above mentioned species to secure your free trees.

Interested? Apply by October 24th: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2011TreesforNeighborhoods

Want to know more about these trees?

  • Lewis and Clark thought that Western red cedars were amazing enough to be called the “trees of life” -arbor vitae. Plant one in your backyard and you’ll be on your way to helping our cities be full of life
  • The gorgeous Deodar cedar is native to the Himalayan region, but grows wonderfully in the Pacific Northwest. It has a long history in India, where its Hindu name means “revered tree.”
  • The tupelo tree is a great medium-sized tree for a yard that is looking for some brilliant leaf coloring.  Tupelo leaves are a dark glossy green in the spring and summer and  turn bright colors- mostly red, but some yellow just as the gray skies come rolling in.  Tupelo is used in the south to make the famous “Tupelo honey.”
  • Shore pines are quite the opposite of the straight and orderly pine you might imagine. As its scientific name, Pinus contorta ssp. Contorta, suggests, it can grow crooked branches – an attractive addition to your backyard.

Want more information? http://seattle.gov/trees/treesforneighborhoods.htm