The Chesapeake Bay has a dead zone of about 50%. What can help? Plants.
The City of Norfolk is celebrating trees.
That’s right, you read correctly.
And it’s not planned by a hippie-loving, tree-hugging non-profit for this spring, but by our very own Mayor, going on right now.
Inspired by a tree-planting program in Norfolk’s sister city of Kitakyushu, Japan, Mayor Fraim has a new community partnership designed to honor Norfolk’s trees and the benefits we receive from them. Many will remember some of the reasons learned in grade school, and others from personal experience, but here’s a fairly comprehensive list from the initiative’s website to enhance the list already contained in the brain:
“Trees provide many benefits, including improving water quality, conserving energy, lowering city temperatures, reducing air pollution, enhancing property values, providing wildlife habitats, facilitating social and educational opportunities, and beautifying the city.”
I would add aesthetically pleasing as well.
Here’s an interesting tidbit of information. The Chesapeake Bay has a dead zone of about 50%. I repeat, a dead zone. How can water have a dead zone? Because nearly 50% of the Chesapeake Bay has insufficient levels of oxygen to support the life that should be living there. Why’s that? In part, because sedimentation due to the erosion of the banks of waterways and deposits of leaves and soil from storm drains cover up plants in the shallower waters of the Bay, preventing their growth and the production of oxygen for wildlife, including fish and crabs.
What can help? Plants. Their roots help hold soil in place and allow water to be absorbed into the soil to be cleaned, rather than running off into storm drains and then into the Bay. And that’s where Norfolk’s Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) and the Living Legacy Groves can help.
Living Legacy Groves are designed to increase the UTC in the city from its current 33% to 40%. UTC is defined as “the layer of leaves, branches, and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above. It is determined by combining aerial photography with GIS technology. The 40% recommendation comes from American Forests, a nonprofit conservation group whose mission is to protect, restore and enhance trees and forests. Considering the heavily urbanized state of Norfolk, our current UTC of 33% is a pretty considerable achievement.
To date, two Living Legacy Groves have been planted, one in Lakewood Park and most recently in Lafayette Park. The groves consist of native trees. The groundcover will not be mowed to encourage a natural ecosystem to develop. This way, by imitating naturally occurring groves, soil and stormwater are retained (erosion defense) and the vegetation helps with carbon uptake (cleaner air). Accessible to the public, they have educational signs explaining the grove and the program. More groves are planned; details have not yet been finalized.
The project is even being lauded by a local water-loving non-profit, the Elizabeth River Project, which will honor the City with “River Star” status at a ceremony later this month.
Want to help increase Norfolk’s UTC and the Chesapeake Bay? You can, and the Celebrate Trees website gives you all the information you need to plant the trees on your own. Check out the appealing names of the trees on the list: Witchhazel, Japanese Snowbell, Trident Maple, and here’s a good one, Prairiefire Flowering Crabapple. Tell me that doesn’t make you even a teensy bit interested.
And since I’m a hippie-loving tree-hugger, I’ll close with some advice from “The Lorax,” not surprisingly my favorite Dr. Seuss book:
“Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”