Fridays For the Future — Protecting Seedlings
A coastal oak drops approximately 64,000 acorns over a 5 year period. Coastal oak seedlings, once established, grow a deep taproot and are quite hardy. If they are in the wrong place in your yard, seem impossible to kill. (I have one I have wrestled with, on and off, for more than a decade. It is still winning.)
So, in nature, how many of those acorns survive the squirrels? How many seedlings survive the deer, gophers, and rabbits? Over 50 years, photos will show a single coastal oak tree is likely to expand its family throughout an entire California valley, but how many of those trees come from the first 60,000+ acorns?
12 — Yes, TWELVE!
Recently, as I encourage you to plant a tree every Friday, I have used the phase, “or protect a seedling.” How many of the 64,000 acorns germinated and became seedlings? 10,000?
Does it matter? As seeds or seedlings, those acorns became food for other parts of the local ecosystem.
As I walk around my neighborhood, I see tree seedlings everywhere. The soil is dense with clay and, for me, digging a new hole for a tree feels like picking, poking, and excavating through concrete. And yet the seedlings seem to survive, and are still green, making them an appealing meal for hungry and thirsty deer.
The challenge for Fridays For the Future (FFF) to be meaningful is not just about planting young trees. FFF only has an impact if the seedlings or young trees survive until they grow to where they give us shade. You can protect the seedlings and saplings (young trees) while they grow into full grown trees.
In my neighborhood there is a type of tree favored by the deer. We call their fruit plums, but these plums are the size of cherries. Some ripen in yellow, others orange and some red. The red ones are my favorite: at peak maturity, have a taste that hints at vanilla. But they are hard to harvest because, in my experience, the only plum trees that have achieved maturity are surrounded by either a dense thicket of poison oak or are on a slope that is difficult to reach.
The deer consume the plums and leave thousands of seeds everywhere and quite a few sprout, growing into seedlings. I have seen dozens this year, despite the lack of rainfall in recent months. On a recent Wednesday, in anticipation of Friday’s tree planting/protection, I selected the three above, Tres Amigos.
When I arrived Friday, with a bit of fencing to surround and protect them, the top half of each had been eaten.
It is now early September, between now and mid-October, the hottest and driest time of year, without help, these seedlings will disappear as they become a deer’s meal. (Many times, I’ve watched this occur with other seedlings.) My fencing will only prevent 1 deer from having 3 bites, so it creates minimal disruption to the ecosystem.
Last night, after washing the dishes, I tossed the rinse water near Tres Amigos. A few cups of water, once a week, on this tree cluster is all the additional support I plan.
It is enough.
These plum trees, like the coastal oak are amazingly hardy, especially if given a bit of shade from another plant. Their existential threat is not water or even the summer heat, but grazing animals. As I write here, I’ll track these young trees over time. The soil is poor, the land is dry … but now I understand why most of the plum trees in the neighborhood are difficult to harvest. The deer have the same challenges with steep slopes that I do and seem to leave the poison oak alone.
So do your part, plant or protect a tree every Friday, as part of Fridays For the Future (FFF). I hope Tres Amigos survive to be part of my community’s tree-based climate response.
I would like to leave you with some final thoughts from Professor Vivek Shandas of Portland State University. He specializes in developing strategies for addressing the implications of climate change on cities. In an article published in Reimagining the Civic Commons, Professor Shandas wrote:
As a species, we have designed our physical environment to reduce threats to us for millennia. So, while design that reduces threats from the environment isn’t a new idea, we had 35,000 years of a stable climate to understand how to reduce these threats.
As we start to experience climate destabilization from what we’ve known for our entire evolutionary history as a species, we need to ask ourselves what our new climate will mean for habitable spaces and how we design them in the future.
One of the most interesting aspects of urban temperatures is that there are multiple factors that influence how hot different areas in one place are. For example, the amount of green space and big trees is a big factor in heat variance; areas with trees are much cooler than areas without trees by 10 or even 15 degrees. Trees cool spaces by giving us shade and transpiring water. …
I hope you’ve read my article on the same topic.
Trees, Climate Change and Community
Duffy, my dog, ran from shadow to shadow on a hot day, while I ruminated on trees and their role in keeping communities…
Of course, I hope these articles move you to action. Given the length of time trees need to grow, today is not too soon to contribute to the global warming solution in your neighborhood.
Climate Change and Green Space
A conversation with Professor Vivek Shandas on the role of the public realm in community resilience
One more quote from Vivek Shandas, from Climate Change and Green Space:
Trees are living biological entities. … Green space and tree canopy are among our first and most formidable defenses to rising temperatures. Planted and cared for well, they could help entire cities cool down over time. Unfortunately, we’re not yet thinking, as a society, about how trees could help reduce temperatures. We’re not building spaces that are hospitable for trees and vegetation.
So this Friday, and every Friday, plant a tree!
Why does SymSoil care? We focus on solutions to environmental issues, with a focus on soil biology. Trees and plants feed, and are fed by, the soil microbiome. Healthy soil influences water, carbon sequestration and human health. SymSoil holds a patent on the first scalable approach to manufacturing Soil Food Web products as an alternative to agrochemicals. SymSoil is a supporter of 100KTrees4Humanity, an urban tree planting project focused on action that moves us towards solutions to climate change with equity and inclusion.
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Trees Provide 25 Eco-Services
Trees provide more than a dozen valuable eco-services, I made a list for linking to in future articles