Quantify the benefits of trees with i-Tree and help NASA too!

Article by FMN Kim Schauer

MyTree is one of the many tools within the iTree suite of free online tools that uses peer-reviewed, USDA Forest Service research to quantify the benefits and values of trees,  and iTree’s tools will get a software update on May 3 that will embed the latest USFS science.

You can get an itemized list of ecosystem services (and an estimate of the monetary value of those services) by visiting the MyTree online app and entering details about the species, health, size and location-relative-to-your-home of your specific tree.

For example, MyTree indicates that a 40″ diameter sweetgum in excellent health in full sun within 20′ of a Mt. Vernon home that was built between 1950-80 on its northeast side:
• intercepts 1,594 gallons of rainfall annually
• avoids 247 gallons of runoff annually,
• sequesters more than 13 lbs. of carbon dioxide annually,
• saves 192 kWh of electricity in reduced air conditioning costs annually
• has stored 30,277 lbs. of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

MyTree is a helpful tool to give evidence that just leaving a tree standing and/or hiring a certified arborist to protect and preserve a tree can be a worthwhile investment. This tool is mostly meant to analyze individual trees.

A few of the other tools in the suite include:
   –iTree Design (for parcel-level analysis)
   –iTree Canopy (use aerial photos to estimate benefits of trees)
  –iTree Hydro (to quantify stormwater benefits)
  –iTree Species (estimate the benefits of different species)
   –iTree Planting (quantify future benefits of a new tree-planting project) 

As a side note, anyone who is collecting tree data with MyTree might also be interested in learning about NASA’s very cool citizen science project, GLOBE Observer: Trees. Using the app helps NASA improve and ground truth satellite data and track biomass gains/losses.

The GLOBE Observer: Trees app

   1.  Open the GLOBE Observer: Trees app.
   2.  Take a photo of a tree.
   3.  Walk to the tree (so the app can record the distance).
   4.   The app calculates the estimated height of the tree.
   5.  Enter more optional data to add to the value of your observation.
   6.  Contribute to to NASA scientists’ understanding of the world’s canopy!

Below is an excerpt from the GLOBE Observer: Trees webpage:

Tree height is the most widely used indicator of an ecosystem’s ability to grow trees. Observing tree height allows NASA scientists to understand the gain or loss of biomass which can inform calculations of the carbon that trees and forests either take in from or release into the atmosphere. Tracking how trees are changing over time can help us estimate the number of trees that make up an area.  Learn more about the science of trees, and how NASA studies them, on the Trees Science page.

Here’s a 4/21/21 article about it:
Science is Better Together: The Real-World Benefit of the NASA GLOBE Observer Trees

Hikers, listen up!

Article and photo of Sully by FMN Marilyn Parks

Two of my favorite things come together in Ellen Reid’s SOUNDWALK, nature and music.  Ok, three of my favorite things since I get to bring Sully!  

Wolf Trap Park offers two trails that take hikers through the winding, woody parkland behind the Filene Center.  SOUNDWALK is GPS-enabled work of free public art that uses music to illuminate the natural environment.  It has been tailor-made to its setting and encourages calm reflection and introspection as you follow the blue (2.5 miles) or orange (1.5) trail markers.  The sun was gleaming on Wolf Trap Run, the woods alive with spring growth.  Take time to look at the Redbud and Dogwood trees in bloom, the spring beautifies popping up through the forest floor.

Ellen Reid SOUNDWALK was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Mann Center for the Performing Arts in association with The Fairmount Park Conservancy, and the Britt Festival Orchestra.  For more information on specific presentations, visit ellenreidsoundwalk.com.

Now through September 6, 2021 at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.  Free.  If you go, download the app before you arrive at the park and remember to bring your earbuds – not everyone wants to hear music as they’re walking the trails.

Note that the Ranger Station is closed and due to construction projects, many areas of the park are closed in the interest of public safety.  Face masks are required on NPS administered lands where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Sustainable Diet, Sustainable World: Community Supported Agriculture Makes Both Happen

In her article on the Knowledge Driven Enterprise blog, Savanna Smith reports that “When you buy your groceries, the best and brightest fruits and veggies have usually traveled across the country and sometimes across the world to get to you. This supply chain bypasses the perfectly fresh produce local to your community. Our traditional market practices have enormously high transportation and carbon costs, create massive amounts of wasted food, and may leave our local farmers with unsustainable businesses.

So what can we do to address these problems?”

Smith discusses community supported agriculture options in Northern Virginia and elsewhere. And she offers a great list of resources for further reading.

Cicada Safari, Smartphone mapping app for citizen science

Photo by Yuri Vasconcelos on Unsplash

Join Cicada Safari to help map the 2021 emergence of the periodical cicada Brood X.  Simply download the free app from the Apple app store or Google play, then go on a safari to find periodical cicadas.  Photograph and submit the periodical cicadas to Cicada Safari, and after the photos are verified, they will be posted to the live map. Cicada Safari was created by Dr. Gene Kritsky working with the Center for IT Engagement at  Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati.

More information here.

Earth Sangha seeks Volunteers Six Days a Week

6100 Cloud Dr. Springfield, VA
Sundays- Fridays
9 am to Noon
Must sign up here.

Just in the first 5 weeks since Earth Sangha opened up its Wild Plant Nursery for the Spring season, they’ve supplied over 325 curbside pickup and Self-Service Sunday orders.

As they send out their local-ecotype native plants to their permanent homes, they’re just as busy growing new ones to take their places. Of course, these take some time to get ready: to sow the seed, pot seedlings up, or divide overcrowded pots.

Volunteers can help with a wide variety of tasks and do not need to have any previous experience!

Review of Never Home Alone, by Robb Dunn

Review by FMN Kristine Lansing

How much serious thought have you given to the mold in your bathroom, the spider in your stairwell, or the camel cricket bouncing around your basement? Have you ever found yourself wondering what else might be lurking within the four walls of your home, and whether it’s a good thing . . . or not?

As master naturalists, we spend so much of our time observing and interacting with nature “in the wild” that it’s easy to overlook the veritable universe that dwells right alongside us, indoors. In fact, “every house is a wilderness brimming with thousands of species of insects, bacteria, fungi, and plants.”* And it appears new species are being discovered all the time.

In 264 well-crafted pages, Dr. Robb Dun explores the intricate relationships and co-dependencies that some of our tiny lodgers have cultivated not only with us but with one another. Our first instinct may be to get rid of all intruders, but disturbing this delicate balance can occasionally be detrimental to us.

Rather than trying to artificially control the species that surround us, Dunn suggests that we instead “rewild” our homes “to let the wilderness back in, albeit . . . selectively.” Once “the most dangerous beasts” have been tamed, we will be better positioned to “find joy and wonder in the bacteria, fungi, and insects in our daily lives.” Joy? Wonder? After reading this fascinating book you’ll never see your home in quite the same light again!

Rob Dunn is a professor in the department of applied ecology at North Carolina State University and in the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.

  • This and all subsequent quotes are from Never Home Alone, Robb Dunn, 2018, Basic Books.

The Social Cost of Carbon

Climate change is the central issue of our time, affecting everything connected to the natural world.

Economists have calculated the costs of climate change, one of which is the social cost of carbon (SCC). Watching this 3-minute video on SCC is an easy way to understand the reasoning behind the concept and what it means in terms of government decision making that affects all of us.

An additional resource is this explanation by Kevin Rennet and Cora Kingdon of Resources for the Future (excerpted here): “The social cost of carbon (SCC) is an estimate, in dollars, of the economic damages that would result from emitting one additional ton of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The SCC puts the effects of climate change into economic terms to help policymakers and other decisionmakers understand the economic impacts of decisions that would increase or decrease emissions. The SCC is currently used by local, state, and federal governments to inform billions of dollars of policy and investment decisions in the United States and abroad. This explainer reviews how the SCC is used in policy analysis, how it is calculated, and how it came to be.”

The Environmental Defense Fund offers accessible articles on SCC as well as an amazing podcast called Degrees. The host, Yesh Pavlik Slenk, interviews people who use their jobs and their time to make a real difference for their communities.

Want to reduce your own carbon footprint? Rare.org suggests 7 easy ways to start.

Art, Wonder and the Natural World, webinar May 6th

Photo courtesy of Jane Kim

Thursday, May 6, 2021
7 pm
Fee: $10

To register, click here.

Join Audubon Society of Northern Virginia as they welcome Jane Kim, artist, science illustrator, and the founder of Ink Dwell, a studio that explores the wonders of the natural world. In this visually stunning presentation, Jane will take the audience on an artistic journey that explores the 375 million year evolution of birds, the migratory behaviors of some of our most beloved and endangered animals and the importance of creating urban monuments to nature.

This is a joint venture with the Oak Spring Garden Foundation.

City Nature Challenge: Upload and Identify Observations! Tuesday May 4 through Saturday, May 9

Wednesday May 5, 7-9pm: Virtual Event: ID Party. Work together to identify DC area City Nature Challenge observations! You’ll learn ID tips and iNaturalist power user techniques.  Register here.

Save the Date!  Monday May 10, 7-8:30pm: Virtual Event: City Nature Challenge Celebration.   A festive virtual gathering to celebrate the discoveries! Once scheduled, details will be revealed here.

See the Resources page for recordings of last year’s virtual events. 

All observations April 30 through May 3 will count for the City Nature Challenge if they are made within the green line on this map:

Why are Invasives in the Trash?

Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Park Foundation

Fairfax County requires yard waste to be placed in paper bags. So why does the Fairfax County Invasive Management Area Program use large plastic bags?

Because the size is needed, and those bags are packed with non-native invasive plants that must be incinerated. Invasives are burned, not composted. Material left curbside in paper bags is turned into mulch. Invasive plants in mulch would spread their seeds. At home, don’t put invasive plants in paper bags for pickup and composting. Trash them.