Monday, December 08, 2008

ReLeaf America

It's not what you think. We at the Francis Beidler Forest Audubon Center are not outside with our collection (transparent, masking, painter's, duct, and mailing) tape attempting to put the autumn leaves back on the trees. Our experience with thousands of school children has shown that Elmer's glue works best.

We learned about the ReLeaf program, sponsored by the American Forests organization, as we were crushing an empty cereal box. The webpage states, "It is our goal at American Forests to continue to plant millions of trees in new Global ReLeaf projects across the country and the globe." As an expanding carbon sink, we support any effort to improve ecosystems through the restoration of native forests. You can see their South Carolina projects here. Many of these projects restored Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), the native pine forest ecosystem in the Southeast, to the Francis Marion National Forest.

Not only do trees provide the a key component of forests (duh), but as such they provide shade and cooler temperatures to earth and plants beneath them, provide food and shelter for plants and animals, produce oxygen while removing carbon dioxide, filter groundwater flowing through soils held within their root systems, are aesthetically-pleasing, and sequester carbon within their structure. The Climate Change Calculator on the American Forest webpage can help you calculate your carbon footprint and see how that can be offset by the planting of a tree (or trees).

As Gov. Mark Sanford (standing before a 1000+-year-old Bald Cypress) noted last week at the Ramsar dedication ceremony, natural spaces are a quality of life issue. Not only is our environment (air, water, soil) cleansed, but habitat is provided for plants and animals whose disappearance would likely threaten our survival as a species. Finally, natural spaces provide our souls with the opportunity to step away from all that is hectic in our lives and decompress.

'Tis the season of giving, so let's give the Earth the gift of a tree (or trees). Support programs like ReLeaf, support the planting efforts of organizations within your community or buy a native (more on that tomorrow) tree and plant it in your yard!

Image by Mark Musselman

No comments: