Trees Matter

Trees are beauties to behold and more. Trees contribute to life. Trees provide cooling shade in the summer and enable the sun’s warmth to filter through in winter. Trees act as wind shields and can stabilize soil helping to diminish soil erosion. Trees help absorb excess water and slow its drainage in times of heavy rain and flooding. Trees provide oxygen and take up carbon dioxide which helps to clean the air and take up pollutants which help to clean water. Leaves are habitat and nutrition for caterpillars and other invertebrates which are food sources for birds and other wildlife. Trunks and branches support lichen and moss used by some birds to build nests. Trees and tree cavities are nesting sites for birds and other wildlife. These are only some of the functions trees perform. But trees are in trouble, assaulted by invasive pests including among others emerald ash borer (EAB) and Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), invasive plant species, climate change and unbalanced development practices. EAB is killing native ash trees which lack effective defense mechanisms against these insects. With this region’s large population of ash trees, over 10% of the urban and community forests and 40% of some area forests could be lost. ALB prefers maple but infests a variety of other native species. With fast growth rates, excessive fruit production and efficient seed dispersal and germination, invasive plants outcompete native seedlings for growth space and sunlight in urban forests. Bush honeysuckle, ornamental flowering pear and garlic mustard, are some of the species of concern in this area. Rising global temperature and extreme weather events stress tree growth. Deer consume tree seedlings and many local wooded areas including Mt Airy Forest are not regenerating. Cutting down of healthy trees, insufficient replanting of trees and lack of maintenance of urban trees are other factors threatening the region’s woody plants.

Protecting and reforesting are actions that can be taken to help make the Tri-State area a place with a diversity of healthy native trees. Education is needed about the value of trees. Become better informed and talk with friends and community leaders about threats to trees. Support funding for the care and maintenance of urban trees and forests. Care for trees on private property and plant a diversity of native types. Remove invasive species such as honeysuckle. Volunteer with a park and help remove invasive plants. Taking Root is a Tri-State broad-based collaborative effort to address the loss of the region’s tree canopy by planting trees, better local forest management and promoting a goal of planting 2 million trees by 2020. Partners include Green Umbrella, OKI (Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Council of Governments), area parks, municipalities, soil and water conservation districts, arborists, and environmental organizations. Organizations and individuals are encouraged to participate.

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