Re-thinking trees and rainwater
The connections between trees, stormwater, and the soil / water web are not always obvious in our cities and towns. With the approach of El Nino, it will help to maintain a broad view of climate change and long-term drought, and to keep in mind the human inclination toward the hydro-illogical cycle!
The urban forest in the mid Rio Grande region has been in trouble for a while. The drought and invasive insects have stressed older trees and caused many to die. Impervious pavement increases with urbanization, which can increase the heat island effect. The graphic report at Climate Central reveals that Albuquerque ranks second in the US with the biggest difference between urban and rural temperatures.
The researchers looked at summer urban heat islands (average daily urban-rural temperature differences) over the past 10 years. Albuquerque’s urban area has soared 22 percent higher (in the cities) than in surrounding areas (with less impervious area) on some summer days. Hotter temperatures mean more ozone, a dangerous air pollutant.
More trees and parks, white roofs, and alternative materials for urban infrastructure can help reduce the effects of urban heat islands. Climate Central
The Arbor Day Foundation provides a visually complex infographic showing the differences between an urban water system with a few trees compared to a thriving urban forest. Look at the changes that occur on parking lots.
Treeless Parking Lots are unsightly, add to stormwater runoff and are a source of heat that is not only uncomfortable but increases air pollution. Arbor Day Foundation
Earthworks, trees and water go together!
It’s encouraging to see results of a study Doubly Green Trees from the American Society of Agronomy: earthworks (bio-retention basins and swales) and trees function very well together. Santa Fe based designer Aaron Kauffman reports that the water content in basins and swales is greater than in areas without earthworks. In New Mexico, more water retention = healthier soil and plants. No big surprises there, but more hands-on implementation within our communities is necessary.
Water infrastructure plus
With the global water crisis growing and the reality of climate change and financial impacts upon us, The Economist has joined the conversation. “Working with the Flow” includes the infographic shown below. Natural with engineered water infrastructure integrates more aspects of the natural ecosystem and produces more benefits, but financing systems need to go through a major paradigm shift.
Natural infrastructure provides services that underpin the way we manage our river basins and therefore the way we grow food, generate electricity, and supply water to cities. At the same time, it maintains important biophysical processes, and endows our environment with species and habitats. Critically, water drives our climate, and therefore climate change affects the hydrology we so heavily rely upon. The majority of finance directed towards adaptation to climate change is used to solve water management challenges on the ground, and yet water is poorly integrated into climate change policy discussions and funding proposals. Mark Smith, The Economist
As our older trees die off, we can adapt and create more resilient urban and rural landscapes. Whether you live in a dense central area with numerous workplaces and homes, a neighborhood with single homes, or dwell beyond the fringes of the city, re-think trees, water, and soil. Advocate for more classes and workshops, water harvesting and tree incentives, and skill-building programs to generate land and water resilience.