Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Tiny Forests' Big Benefits

Tiny Forests Can Have Big Benefits
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, February 13, 2024, p. A6

Cedar Rapids and Iowa City have been honored Arbor Day Foundation “Tree City USA” communities for over 40 years.

We know the benefits tree projects provide – air quality, cooling, community cohesion, improved health.

The Cedar Rapids derecho on Aug. 20, 2020, made national headlines after gusts up to 140 mph destroyed or seriously damaged nearly 700,000 trees.

Current news is our share of the $1 billion Forest Service grant for local trees, ReLeaf’s plan to replace nearly 50,000 of the former trees, NOAA’s identification of our “heat islands,” and near universal community support for these projects.

We are aware that it’s getting warmer. Many days this month have been 30 degrees or more above average. We may not be aware that The Lut Desert (Iran) and Sonoran Desert (Mexico) have recorded temperatures over 175 degrees. That workers in Kuwait City and Basra, Iraq, need to start in the middle of the night and quit at 7:20 am for breakfast and home to avoid excessive heat. Or that the Sun is 16 million degrees at its core.

When Dean Martin sang that he was “praying for rain in California” it was “so the grapes will grow and they can make more wine.” If it didn’t rain he could always go back to his favorite Old Fashioned.

When Iowa farmers pray for rain no alcohol is a viable substitute. And when the hot, dry, cracked soil no longer gives birth to corn and beans, Iowa’s economy crashes along with farmers’ dreams.

Fortunately, like a new fashion industry design (think torn jeans), just when we need a comfortable breeze of good news, along comes a new approach to trees.

It’s called “tiny forests.” In 2006 Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki was honored for this contribution. In addition to Japan, they’re now popular in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, India, Russia and the Middle East.

Here are the highlights.

Tiny forests are, well, tiny. No rigid rules on size, so think tennis court.

How do they differ from trees planted between the sidewalk and road along a city street? Tiny forests are an effort to recreate a crowded plot with naturally enriched soil, and none but indigenous shrubs, groundcover and trees fighting for the sunlight. Like a small piece of our western vacation lands.

I hear you asking – as my doctor queried when I proudly told him I’d lost five pounds – “Why would you want to do that?”

Used in urban heat islands, parks and developments as a supplement, not substitute, for other tree planting projects, they have those projects’ advantages plus many more.

With three-to-six times the tree density of a young forest they grow faster – 5 to 10 feet a year. Density creates microclimates, attracting a greater variety of birds and pollinators. Rapid growth creates more carbon dioxide capture sooner. Greater cooling. Soil that reduces erosion and runoff while refilling aquifers. Weed suppression. Low or no maintenance. Need less land than scattered trees. [Photo credit: wikimedia commons; Tiny Forest 9 months after planting!]

Sometimes major challenges have tiny solutions.

Nicholas Johnson will email you his “tiny forest” sources if you email a request to mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

Cedar Rapids trees. “Forestry,” Cedar Rapids, https://www.cedar-rapids.org/residents/resident_resources/forestry.php (“Tree City USA Recognition The City of Cedar Rapids has been recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for more than 40 consecutive years. We have the longest consecutive record of any city in the state of Iowa.”)

Iowa City trees. “Forestry,” Iowa City, https://www.icgov.org/government/departments-and-divisions/parks-and-recreation/forestry “Tree City, USA Iowa City is proud to have been named a Tree City USA annually since 1979. Only one city in Iowa, Cedar Rapids, has been a recipient over a longer period of time than Iowa City.”)

Benefits of trees. “22 Benefits of Trees,” TreePeople, https://www.treepeople.org/22-benefits-of-trees/ (sample selections: climate change, cleaner air, oxygen source, heat reduction, water control, erosion protection, noise reduction, soil improvement, beautification, physical and mental health.)

Cedar Rapids derecho. “Derecho,” Cedar Rapids, https://www.cedar-rapids.org/derecho/review.php (“On August 10, 2020, Cedar Rapids was confronted with an unprecedented disaster that impacted the entire community. . . . Recognized as the most destructive severe thunderstorm in the United States history, the derecho damaged thousands of homes and businesses. The derecho also destroyed 669,000 trees causing an enormous amount of debris.”)

Examples of national coverage:

Bryan Pietsch, Aimee Ortiz and John Schwartz, “In Derecho’s Wake, More Than 250,000 in Midwest Struggle Without Power; Residents in Iowa, Illinois and surrounding states were still without electricity days after Monday’s storms brought hurricane-force winds,” New York Times, August 13, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/13/us/derecho-iowa-storm.html

Bob Henson, “Iowa derecho in August was most costly thunderstorm disaster in U.S. history; NOAA estimates damage at $7.5 billion, higher than many hurricanes,” The Washington Post, Oct. 17, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/10/17/iowa-derecho-damage-cost/ (“Numerous locations clocked gusts over 110 mph. The winds laid waste to millions of acres of crops, severely damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes, and brought down many thousands of trees. “One could make a strong case that this is the most destructive individual thunderstorm cluster on record in terms of damage cost,” said Steve Bowen, head of catastrophe insight at the insurance broker Aon, in an email. Aon released an initial damage estimate of $5 billion for the derecho, not yet including agricultural impacts. . . . The highest estimated gust, based on the partial destruction of an apartment complex in Cedar Rapids, was 140 mph. Gusts that strong are comparable to the peak that one would expect in an EF3 tornado or major hurricane. Parts of five Iowa counties were struck by wind gusts estimated at 110 to 140 mph.”)

Forest Service grant; ReLeaf plans. Marissa Payne, “In USDA’s $1.1 billion investment in tree planting, Cedar Rapids’ ReLeaf reforestation effort awarded $6 million; Iowa communities, Department of Natural Resources receive $15.7 million through Forest Service grants,” The Gazette, Sep. 14, 2023, https://www.thegazette.com/federal-government/in-usdas-1-1-billion-investment-in-tree-planting-cedar-rapids-releaf-reforestation-effort-awarde/ (“In a move to expand equitable access to trees and green spaces nationwide, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday announced an award of $6 million toward Cedar Rapids’ effort to reforest the city after the 2020 derecho toppled most of the city’s tree canopy. Gathered at Greene Square in the heart of Cedar Rapids, federal officials shared Cedar Rapids is among 385 recipients of $1.13 billion in U.S. Forest Service grants that will help communities grow tree cover in urban spaces and provide Americans with the health benefits that trees offer. . . . The funding . . . is intended to expand equitable access to nature while making communities more resilient to extreme heat, storm-induced flooding and other effects of the human-caused climate crisis. Locally, Thursday’s announcement moved the city of Cedar Rapids and Trees Forever closer to the $37 million needed to fund their ReLeaf partnership to replenish the trees downed in the derecho, ReLeaf partnership to replenish the trees downed in the derecho, the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history. The unprecedented storm wiped out more than two-thirds of Cedar Rapids’ tree canopy, about 669,000 trees. . . . Specifically, the ReLeaf plan calls for planting about 42,000 trees on public parks and rights of way over 10 years with a focus on place-making and equitably restoring tree cover in vulnerable neighborhoods. The plan envisions trees as a means of strengthening social bonds in the community by promoting volunteerism.”)

NOAA’s heat islands. “Spot the Hot,” The Hot-Heat Mapping Campaign, Cedar Rapids, https://www.cedar-rapids.org/local_government/sustainability/SpotTheHot.php (“Residents in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City had the opportunity to serve as community scientists to gather temperature data I hottest parts of our Corridor communities as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) heat island project. The City of Cedar Rapids, along with Iowa City, recently was named one of 18 communities in the U.S. to participate in the NOAA Urban Heat Island (UHI) mapping campaign, and we received grant funding from NOAA for this project. UHIs are areas with fewer trees and more pavement to absorb heat and create heat pockets in communities, in contrast with areas that feature more trees, green spaces, and less asphalt. UHIs are detrimental to public health because of these created heat pockets. The NOAA UHI mapping campaign engaged community volunteers to help collect data in their neighborhoods by utilizing provided sensors mounted on their vehicles; the sensors recorded temperature, humidity, time, and location.”)

Near universal community support. Marissa Payne, “In USDA’s $1.1 billion investment in tree planting, Cedar Rapids’ ReLeaf reforestation effort awarded $6 million; Iowa communities, Department of Natural Resources receive $15.7 million through Forest Service grants,” The Gazette, Sep. 14, 2023, https://www.thegazette.com/federal-government/in-usdas-1-1-billion-investment-in-tree-planting-cedar-rapids-releaf-reforestation-effort-awarde/ (“Vilsack told reporters the combination of community leadership, nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations and other partnerships behind ReLeaf Cedar Rapids made it a compelling application within the state of Iowa and a fitting location to spotlight in unveiling the grants. ‘What really struck me was how comprehensive and how excited and how passionate people are for this program in Cedar Rapids,’ . . . The city has committed at least $1 million annually toward ReLeaf for 10 years . . .. ReLeaf has secured about $3.5 million in private support so far . . ..”)

30 degrees warmer this year. Corey Thompson, “Exceptional warmth continues, before rain and storm chance brings change,” KCRG, Feb. 6, 2024, https://www.kcrg.com/2024/02/06/exceptional-warmth-continues-before-rain-storm-chance-brings-change/ (“A warming trend continues into Wednesday and Thursday, owing to an increase in southeasterly winds. These will help to pull in those warmer highs, which head toward the upper 50s on Wednesday, and likely break through the 60-degree mark on Thursday. More records are possible on Wednesday, and we will likely wipe out records area-wide on Wednesday as highs surge toward 30 degrees or more above normal. Cedar Rapids has never seen such warmth for so long this early in the year . . ..”)

Alan Halaly, “West’s ‘hot drought’ is unprecedented in more than 500 years,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, Feb. 1, 2024, https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/science-and-technology/wests-hot-drought-is-unprecedented-in-more-than-500-years-2991687/ Also, The Gazette, Feb. 3, 2024, p 6: (LAS VEGAS — There’s no precedent in at least five centuries for how hot and dry the West has been in the last two decades, new research asserts using analysis of tree rings. The study, published in late January, adds to an ever-growing slew of research that suggests human-caused climate change is warming the earth in ways never seen before. It furthers other research like one study, published last year, that showed the West’s conditions over the last 20 years are the driest in 1,200 years because of climate change.”)

Ian Livingston, "Central, eastern U.S. bask in record winter warmth; At least 350 warm-weather records have been set this week alone," Washington Post, Feb. 9, 2024, https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2024/02/09/record-high-temperatures-midwest-greatlakes-climate/ ("Abnormally warm weather has [set] hundreds of records. Now some of this warmth is oozing toward the East Coast. Already, at least 350 warm-weather records have fallen, and two more days of springlike warmth are on the way from the Great Lakes to the Mid-Atlantic. . . . Since the beginning of February, temperatures in the nation’s northern tier have climbed to nearly 40 degrees above normal at times. . . . So far, February is the warmest or second-warmest on record for most of the Midwest and Great Lakes regions, according to Weather Service data.")

Lut & Sonoran deserts. Richard Stone, “Move over, Death Valley: These are the two hottest spots on Earth; Two places hold the record for highest surface temperatures on the planet,” Science, May 19, 2021, https://www.science.org/content/article/move-over-death-valley-these-are-two-hottest-spots-earth (“Death Valley holds the record for the highest air temperature on the planet: On 10 July 1913, temperatures at the aptly named Furnace Creek area in the California desert reached a blistering 56.7°C (134.1°F). Average summer temperatures, meanwhile, often rise above 45°C (113°F).

But when it comes to surface temperature, two spots have Death Valley beat. A new analysis of high-resolution satellite data finds the Lut Desert in Iran and the Sonoran Desert along the Mexican-U.S. border have recently reached a sizzling 80.8°C (177.4°F).

Kuwait and Basra. “Extreme Heat Will Change Us; Half the world could soon face dangerous heat. We measured the daily toll it is already taking,” New York Times, Nov. 18, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/11/18/world/middleeast/extreme-heat.html (Basra and Kuwait: "By 7:22 a.m., it was too hot to keep going on the roof, so they ate breakfast in the shade and switched to indoor tasks. At 9 a.m., they quit for the day.")

Sun temperature. “Sun,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ (“Sun Sun’s diameter. 864,600 miles Sun’s distance from Earth. 93,000,000 miles Sun’s temperature on surface; at core. Surface atmosphere 9,000,000 oF [8,999,540 oF] Core 16,000,000 oF [15,700,000 oF] A sphere that size could hold 1.3 million Earths. “Image of 1 Million Earths Inside the Sun,” Business Insider, Jan. 30, 2015, https://www.businessinsider.com/image-of-1-million-earths-inside-the-sun-2015-1)

Dean Martin song. “Little Old Wine Drinker Me,” MOJIM, https://mojim.com/usy123185x45x6.htm (“Little Old Wine Drinker Me”

I’m praying for rain in California, So the grapes can grow And they can make more wine”)

Dean Martin’s favorite drinks. Johathan Wells, “Here’s how to drink like the Rat Pack; From Frank Sinatra’s favorite Scotch whisky to Dean Martin’s cocktail of choice, here’s how to drink like the famous entertainers,” Gentleman’s Journal, Feb. 5, 2024, https://www.thegentlemansjournal.com/article/heres-how-to-drink-like-the-rat-pack/ (“He [Dean Martin] enjoyed a frequent glass of Jack Daniel’s over ice — and even launched his own bourbon, Dino’s, in 1959 (part of a liquor line that also included a vodka and a Scotch whisky). Curiously, however, Martin preferred his Old Fashioned — a cocktail traditionally mixed with bourbon — made with Scotch.”)

Agriculture in Iowa’s economy. Caitlyn Lamm, “Ag is vital to Iowa’s economy,” Iowa Farm Bureau, March 30, 2022, https://www.iowafarmbureau.com/Article/Ag-is-vital-to-Iowas-economy (“Iowa agriculture is responsible for a direct economic output of $88.3 billion and more than 315,000 jobs contributing $17.57 billion in wages, according to the sixth annual Feeding the Economy report. . . . Iowa agriculture supports 801,000 jobs and a $204 billion economic output. Iowa agriculture also has an export value of $6.56 billion.”)

“Iowa,” Sheppard Software, https://www.sheppardsoftware.com/usaweb/snapshot/Iowa.htm (“Economy Farms make up about 92 percent of Iowa’s land; only Nebraska has a higher percentage of farmland. About one-third of the best farmland in the United States is located in Iowa. Most of the state’s residents are in some way dependent upon Iowa’s fertile soil and many crops.”)

“Study Measures Significance of Agriculture to Iowa Economy,” Iowa State University, Extension and Outreach, 2009, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/2009/oct/161501.htm (Though a little dated, still ballpark indicators. “Production agriculture and ag-related industries directly and indirectly employ one of every six Iowans (or 17 percent of the state’s workforce), based on 2007 Census of Agriculture data. They also are responsible for adding $72.1 billion to the state’s economy, or 27 percent of the state’s total. This represents a 2 percent increase over a previous analysis . . ..”)

Tiny forests – description and benefits. See generally, "Pocket Forests," Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pocket_forest

Cara Buckley, “Tiny Forests With Big Benefits; Native plants crowded onto postage-stamp-size plots have been delivering environmental benefits around the world — and, increasingly, in the U.S., New York Times, Aug. 26, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/24/climate/tiny-forests-climate-miyawaki.html (“The tiny forest . . . is . . . already acting quite a bit older than its actual age, which is just shy of 2. Its aspens are growing at twice the speed normally expected, with fragrant sumac and tulip trees racing to catch up. It has absorbed storm water without washing out, suppressed many weeds and stayed lush throughout last year’s drought. The little forest managed all this because of its enriched soil and density, and despite its diminutive size: 1,400 native shrubs and saplings, thriving in an area roughly the size of a basketball court.

Tiny forests have been planted across Europe, in Africa, throughout Asia and in South America, Russia and the Middle East. India has hundreds, and Japan, where it all began, has thousands. . . .

Healthy woodlands absorb carbon dioxide, clean the air and provide for wildlife. But these tiny forests promise even more. They can grow as quickly as ten times the speed of conventional tree plantations, enabling them to support more birds, animals and insects, and to sequester more carbon, while requiring no weeding or watering after the first three years, their creators said. Perhaps more important for urban areas, tiny forests can help lower temperatures in places where pavement, buildings and concrete surfaces absorb and retain heat from the sun. ‘This isn’t just a simple tree-planting method,’ said Katherine Pakradouni, a native plant horticulturist . . .. ‘This is about a whole system of ecology that supports all manner of life, both above and below ground.’

[T]iny forests . . . trace their lineage to the Japanese botanist and plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki, who in 2006 won the Blue Planet Prize, considered the environmental equivalent of a Nobel award, for his method of creating fast-growing native forests. . . .

Dr. Miyawaki’s prescription involves intense soil restoration and planting many native flora close together. Multiple layers are sown — from shrub to canopy — in a dense arrangement of about three to five plantings per square meter. The plants compete for resources as they race toward the sun, while underground bacteria and fungal communities thrive. Where a natural forest could take at least a century to mature, Miyawaki forests take just a few decades, proponents say. . . .

The [Cambridge MA] Danehy Park forest cost $18,000 for the plants and soil amendments, Mr. Putnam said, while the pocket forest company, SUGi, covered the forest creators’ consulting fees of roughly $9,500. By way of comparison, a Cambridge street tree costs $1,800. . . .

The initial density is crucial to stimulating rapid growth, said Hannah Lewis, the author of “Mini-Forest Revolution. ‘It quickly creates a canopy that shades out weeds, and shelters the microclimate underneath from wind and direct sun, she said.’”)

Shubhendu Sharma, “An engineer’s vision for tiny forests, everywhere,” Ted Talks, March 2014, https://www.ted.com/talks/shubhendu_sharma_an_engineer_s_vision_for_tiny_forests_everywhere?language=en

Tennis courts. “Tennis Court Dimensions & Size,” Harrod Sport, March 27, 2020, https://www.harrodsport.com/advice-and-guides/tennis-court-dimensions (“Tennis Court Dimensions A tennis court is 78ft (23.77m) in length. The courts used for singles matches are 27ft (8.23m) wide, while doubles courts are 36ft (10.97m) wide. The court’s service line is 21ft (6.4m) from the net. . . .

What is the total area of a tennis court? The total area of a tennis court is usually 260.87m² –the total playing area of a doubles court. A singles court, which is often marked within the doubles court has a total playing area of 195.65m². [Math – difference 65.22 – ½ = 32.61 - + 195.65 = 228.26 228.26 sq meters = 2456.970192 sq feet = 0.056404 acre

Basketball courts. M Campbell, “Diagrams of Basketball Courts,” https://www.recunlimited.com/blog/diagrams-basketball-courts/ (“Court Dimensions:

Professional NBA and College Basketball court is 94 feet (29 m) by 50 feet (15 m). [4700 square feet])

# # #

No comments: