100,000 Trees for Life

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
October 2018

We sometimes take the oxygen we breathe for granted. The air we breath is mostly nitrogen  (78%) but just 21% oxygen, with tiny amounts of other gases.  From where does the earth get its oxygen?  According to the National Geographic, 70% comes from microscopic plants in our oceans and surface waters, which makes sense as 71% of the earth’s surface is water.  The remaining 30% of our oxygen comes from our terrestrial plants, mainly trees.  We are losing our forests worldwide, and especially here in Indian River County.  Thousands of citrus trees have been and are continuing to be removed because of diseases; large numbers of native plants also have been removed for residential and commercial development.

We at PIAS are collaborating with the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) and multiple community partners on a new project called 100,000 Trees for Life.  So far, other confirmed partners include Indian River Land Trust (IRLT), Ocean Research Conservation Association (ORCA) Indian River County Health Department (IRCHD), University of Florida/ Indian River County Extension Service (UF/IRCES), Peterson’s Farm, and Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County.  We hope that our county schools and others will join in soon.

ORCA | Photo: Bob Montanaro

Besides providing us more oxygen, planting native trees in Indian River County saves energy by providing shade and wind breaks for our homes, cooling our cities and neighborhoods, absorbing and filtering our storm water, and removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, ozone, and air pollutants from our air.  Native trees also help retain our topsoil, save on our water bills, provide food and habitat and a healthy ecosystem for wildlife, birds, and fishes while providing humans with fruits, nuts, shelter, paper products, and a variety of chemicals that provide jobs, and better health and mental health for us all.  This enhancement of our environment is essential for our economy, which depends upon attracting people to our paradise.

Why Plant Native In Our County?
For the health of all citizens:

  • Trees provide food and shelter for people and wildlife – increasing the biodiversity.
  • Kids in tree-lined neighborhoods play outside more – fewer incidences of ADHD, asthma and obesity and more protection from the damaging rays of the sun.
  • Adults are more likely to walk along shady pathways , especially under Florida’s bright sun, know their neighbors, get exercise and enjoy better health.
  • Property values of homes with trees in the landscape are 5-20% higher.
  • One acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe each day and eliminates the carbon dioxide equivalent of driving 26,000 miles by car.
  • Studies have shown that, for low or moderate-income properties, treed landscaping creates a sense of community that reduces crime by 50%.
  • Trees and shrubs reduce noise pollution by acting as buffers, and reduce power of hurricane’s winds on homes

For economic stability:

  • Shaded roadways save 60% in maintenance costs over 30 years.
  • Green business districts attract customers, increase property values and increase worker satisfaction.
  • Strategically placed trees around homes/business can cut cooling costs 30-50%.
  • Parking lots with trees attract more customers and help to cool vehicles.
  • Potable water is a serious problem for our future.  The shade from trees slows evaporation, requiring less irrigation.

For the health of the environment, including the Indian River Lagoon:

  • Stormwater carries pollutants such as oil and gas.  Planting trees that hang over hard surfaces can reduce storm water runoff by 12%.
  • Trees reduce soil erosion and retain the organic material that forms muck if washed into the lagoon.
  • Odors and pollutant gases such as ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and ozone are absorbed by trees.
  • Increased urban tree canopy helps to mitigate the heat island effect of streets, parking lots, rooftops by reducing air temperature in cities up to 10%.
  • By converting lawn to trees and shrubs, fertilizer and herbicide use and runoff can be reduced.

Besides trees giving us clean water and good health, oak trees provide birds with a large number of insect prey.  In fact, as pointed out Professor Doug Tallamy at our January Conference, Transforming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future, oak trees support the most species of moths and butterflies in North America: 557.  He also said 96% of terrestrial bird species in North America rely on insects and other arthropods, especially caterpillars, to feed their young. No insects equals no baby birds. Caterpillars are soft, full of protein, fats and carotenoids. We know trees provide nesting sites for many bird species. Most important, 90% of the insects that eat plants can only eat the native plants with which they co-evolved. That means we must plant and propagate native plants, not exotic species, to maintain our birds.

We have received two grants with which to purchase two greenhouses, one of which will be used to grow live oaks from acorns to protect them from squirrels and other animals. The first greenhouse behind Audubon House is now completed thanks to the hard work of volunteers, Steve Palmquist, Ricky Ray, Terry Greene, and others. With the second greenhouse arriving soon, we will begin growing native plants and doing educational outreach to the community to teach the benefits of native plants for our local wildlife and the environment.  Plant native trees and other plants in your yard to enrich the natural beauty and ecology of our county!  

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