Biking twenty-seven miles to a summit about trees and clean water fueled by coffee made by my dear Benjamin and the first of the local apples for the season: what better way to spend a morning?
I’m at the Clean Water Summit today at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum out in Chaska. The weather is perfect, the biking was marvelous (aside from the dreadfully busy Highway 5 and the turn off of the latter to get into the Arboretum), and I get be here for my community organizer work.
Mark Seeley, the climatologist providing the overview/introduction, is from St. Anthony Park. Imagine that. Connections are everywhere!
The first keynote speaker is speaking on the benefits of urban trees beyond beauty, and much to my delight he came up with a top ten list.
10. Oxygen production; however this is not really a huge benefit because there’s so much oxygen in the atmosphere already)
9. Products such as timber, food, fiber, ethanol (I’m glad this is at 9 because I really cannot stand for viewing trees primarily as a commodity)
8. Noise reduction; often this is psychological because it’s a visible buffer rather than audible- the soil is the true sound absorber
7. Wildlife habitat
Now we start getting to the good ones, the significant benefits…
6. UV radiation reduction; tree leaves absorb 95% of UV radiation, though the reduction under a single tree in a field is only 50% because of backscatter
5. Greenhouse gas reduction; trees remove carbon through growth but are really more of a stopgap method of reducing climate change- urban vegetation is a system that exists through time and space, and the carbon will be cycled back to the atmosphere in time
4. Water quality improvement; too much impervious surface is the biggest issue in regards to water quality in cities- trees affect this through rainfall interception, increased soil infiltration, evapotranspiration (say that three times fast), nutrient uptake, pollution removal, and leaf drop
Are you ready for the top three?
3. Air quality improvement; it’s all about the absorption ability of the stomates in the leaves- they actively remove pollution from the air, yo!
2. Socio-economic improvements; aesthetics, reduced crime rates (not directly from the trees but because a tree-filled space is a place that people want to be in, thus getting to know each other and supporting community), improved mental health and healing, property values, recreation
1. Cooler air temperatures/energy effects; this is the basis for #3,4 and 5 because temperatures drive all of those to some extent; planting of trees intentionally around houses directly affects energy use
More posts to come as we enter the afternoon sessions.