DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y. -- The recent Paris climate change agreement is a major step toward reducing carbon emissions to combat climate change. This mission, agreed to by 196 nations, can seem far removed from our own households – that is until severe weather rears its ugly head.
You have likely witnessed climate change in your landscape – increased flooding, more frequent droughts, more extreme weather events and increasing temperatures. Want to help fight climate change at home? Start by planting more trees.
Nature’s Air Conditioners
On a hot August day, stand under a tree for a few minutes, then step out into the glaring sun. Quite a contrast in temperature isn’t it? Trees are the natural air conditioners of the globe. As water evaporates from their leaf surface, trees cool the area around them. In a single day, the evaporation from one mature tree can equal the cooling effect of 8 room-sized air conditioners.
Carbon Emissions And Clean Air
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gasses. In turn, they release oxygen that we can breathe. Trees are oxygen factories that we depend upon for survival. A single tree can provide a day’s worth of oxygen to four people, while absorbing carbon dioxide from the air.
If you want to reduce your carbon emissions, start by counting the number of cars in your household. A two-car family that drives 20,000 miles per year, at 30 miles per gallon, will need 20 mature trees to remove the carbon dioxide produced by driving. Are you handling your own carbon emissions at home or are you adding to the problem?
With climate change comes more frequent and more severe flooding. Stormwater runoff pollutes our water supply and creates soil erosion. By limiting impermeable surfaces and planting more trees, you can help to keep stormwater on site. A mature tree may store 100 gallons or more of water.
Tree leaves and tree bark intercept raindrops during a storm event, allowing for more gentle infiltration of rainwater into the soil while preventing erosion. Tree roots take up moisture from the soil and store it, also preventing soil erosion while increasing ground water recharge – critical for clean drinking water.
Keeping Trees (and Ourselves) Safe
We often see trees that have fallen during a severe storm. Many of these tree failures are actually induced by poor landscape and construction practices that have compromised a tree’s roots.
Trees are fairly resilient so it can take years after an injury before they fail. To keep trees healthy and safe, “respect the root zone.” On average, tree roots can extend 2 to 3 times beyond the canopy of the tree – that zone is sacred ground for tree health. Since most tree roots are found in the top foot of the soil, the simple acts of digging or compacting the soil around mature trees can wreak havoc with their root system. If you want to avoid tree failure, keep trees healthy and stress-free and respect the root zone.
Kim Eierman, a resident of Bronxville, is an environmental horticulturist and Founder of EcoBeneficial . When she is not speaking, writing, or consulting about ecological landscapes, she teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Native Plant Center and Rutgers Home Gardeners School.
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