“Record setting summer temperatures are increasing concern internationally as well as locally about our Earth’s changing environment,“ said Linda Harmon, a Board Member of the nonprofit founded in 2008 to ensure the survival of our urban forest. “Go plant a native tree this fall and keep the trees you have alive…Yes, the Ojai Valley is under water restrictions, but now is not the time to abandon our tree canopy. Many of our grandmother oaks are in declineIn fact, we have just uploaded a link on our Facebook page to a thorough tree care PDF entitled “Living Among the Oaks” that all Oak Tree owners will find indispensable.”
Take a minute and imagine Ojai without trees and then read the following facts.
According to the U.S. Forest Service,”Urban forests are dynamic ecosystems that provide critical benefits to people and wildlife. They help to filter air and water, control storm water, conserve energy, and provide animal habitat and shade. They add beauty, form, and structure to urban design. By reducing noise and providing places to recreate, urban forests strengthen social cohesion, spur community revitalization, and add economic value to our communities…The National Ten-Year Urban and Community Forestry Action Plan was developed to expand awareness of the benefits that our urban forests, including green infrastructure, provide to communities throughout the nation, and increase investments in these urban forest resources for the benefit of current and future generations.”
In a recent LA Times article Greg McPherson, a supervisory research forester with the U.S. Forest Service warns, “Catastrophic loss of our (tree) canopy would have consequences for human health and well-being, property values, air-conditioning savings, carbon storage, the removal of pollutants from the air we breathe, and wildlife habitat.” In the same article Mark Hoddle, director of UC Riverside’s Center for Invasive Species, said, “Without shade trees, water temperatures will rise and algae will bloom in riparian areas…As a result, fish, frog and native insect populations will diminish, along with the pleasure of hiking, because there’ll be nothing to look at but dead boughs of trees.”
A treeless community sounds pretty dismal, but we aren’t there yet and that is why Ojai Trees is asking citizens to step up. Think before you plant or irrigate but don’t give up on our tree canopy because the heat, and all that comes with it, will only get worse if we do.
According to the the National Arbor Society a mature tree lowers the summer temperature by as much as 20 degrees, and according to the National Audubon Society one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Data from San Francisco’s Friends of the Urban Forest backs that up and outlines other hidden benefits. The nonprofit organization’s data indicates their tree plantings each year have filtered 3.8 tons of atmospheric pollutants out of the air, diverted 28,964,518 gallons of water from the sewer system and stored 1,770 tons of carbon. They have planted 50,000 trees in city sidewalks since 1981.
This data alone shows we need to be smart about when and where we plant, but we need to plant. Water intensive and nonnatives have been the unfortunate trend for decades in Southern California; it’s led to a lot of disappointed gardeners when reoccurring drought hits. Trees stressed by drought are easy targets for pests and spraying pesticides is not the long term answer. We need to plant natives that can fend for themselves with little watering once established.
The Audubon Society makes a smart argument when it recommends natives tree and plants saying they “save you time, water, gasoline and more… Each patch of restored native habitat is just that—a patch in the frayed fabric of the ecosystem in which it lies. By landscaping with native plants, we can turn a patchwork of green spaces into a quilt of restored habitat.” Audubon scientists have concluded “climate change…is the number one threat to North American birds, birds need all the help we can give.” The Society cites damning research by entomologist Doug Tallamy that “has shown that native oaks support more than 550 different species of butterflies and moths alone. The non-native ginkgo tree supports just 5.”
Audubon urges creating “vertical structure” in your yard by planting different species of flowering plants, shrubs, and trees creating layers of vegetation that deflect pounding rains, increasing the chance for water to be absorbed by your soil before running off into storm drains and streams. Audubon reminds us that native plantings require less lawn mowing, fertilizing, and pesticide application which means means cleaner air and water. According to them, “homeowners apply nearly 80 million pounds of pesticides to lawns in the United States each year. What’s more, they use up to 10 times more pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops. During storms, lawn chemicals can be carried by runoff and wind, contaminating streams and wetlands many miles away.”
Ojai Trees agrees and has now planted over 1100 trees since 2008. Our all volunteer organization has always encouraged native plantings and received the Golden Leaf Award in 2011 from the Western Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (WCISA), gained Ojai the title of a Tree City in 2010 and the same year received a California Releaf Grant which doubled the number of street trees Ojai Trees planted that year.
Will Ojai join the many cities and towns nationwide and supply volunteers willing to heed the clarion call to save our trees? Will the City continue to take a proactive stance to protect our tree canopy? Won’t you join us at Ojai Trees? As our planting chant says, “Trees need people, people need trees.” Ojai trees need you. Call 646-9958 or go to ojaitrees.org to find out more about trees, volunteering for planting events, or donating to our mission.