Keep Cool, Keep Clean

by Susan Laszewski
Stomata on a purple heart plant

Stomata on a purple heart plant. Credit: Yersinia pestis/Flickr

New research published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics has found that an estimated 460 lives in the U.K. could have been saved from premature death if only trees and plants had been less stressed by a heat wave-induced drought.

Trees clean our air: In addition to absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen, they also play an important role in filtering some of the most common pollutants. During a heat wave, however, a method that plants employ to conserve water also prevents them from filtering as much pollution. When the ground is dry, plants close their stomata — pore-like openings — to keep water in, but the stomata are also the mechanism through which they absorb all that air pollution, including ozone. While atmospheric ozone protects us from harmful cosmic rays, close to the earth, it’s the primary component of smog. So while water stays in when plants close their stomata, ozone and other pollutants stay out — out in the air we’re breathing.

London’s urban forest and skyline

View of London’s urban forest and skyline. Credit: scyrene/Flickr

So, as the summer heats up, at-risk populations, such as people with respiratory difficulties, are left vulnerable. The study found that of the ozone-related premature deaths that occurred in the U.K. during a 2006 heat wave, an estimated 460 would have been avoided had plants been absorbing pollutants at their normal rate.

As important as urban forests’ role in cleaning our air is, reading about this study brought to mind another important benefit of urban forests. They don’t just clean the air; they also cool it. This benefit of trees is especially significant in urban areas where what’s known as the heat island effect is in place. Because our buildings, streets and paved surfaces store the sun’s heat, temperatures in the city are higher than those in surrounding areas. Planting and caring for a healthy urban forest is one way to help cool cities.

That’s why we work to restore forests globally and why we’re starting our new project, Community ReLeaf, to help cities gain insight into their urban forests — insights that can inform management and planting strategies. Heat waves will continue to be a fact of life, but by doing what we can to mitigate the heat island effect, we may also be helping our forests clean the air.

At Home in the Trees

by American Forests

By Michelle Werts

Everyone knows that birds and trees have a special relationship. For birds, trees provide shelter and food, and for many trees, birds help them reproduce by distributing their seeds. But this relationship can’t be taken for granted, and to protect one, we must protect the other.

Kirtland’s warbler

Kirtland’s warbler. Credit: Joel Trick/USFWS

During my Michigan adventure last week, my colleagues and I visited Hiawatha National Forest, where American Forests Global ReLeaf has supported many projects in the last decade. Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Hiawatha is one million acres of diverse forestland and recreation opportunities — and it’s a place where planning and management are underway to protect an endangered species and its favorite trees.

In the 1980s, the world’s Kirtland’s warbler population had shrunk to a few hundred singing males recorded in the wild. Over the last few decades, foresters, forest managers, wildlife experts and others have helped that species recover by controlling the brown-headed cowbird population in Michigan and the upper Midwest — the only place in the world that the Kirtland’s warbler is found — and preserving Jack pine forests, which are the preferred habitat of Kirtalnd’s warbler. Now, the recorded Kirtland’s warbler singing male population is more than 2,000 in Michigan, which surpasses the original recovery plan’s goal. The bird isn’t out of the woods, though, as its continued population health is contingent on making sure that sufficient habitat is always available, which means making sure new Jack pine stands are planted or replanted each year.

Examining a young Jack pine in Michigan's Hiawatha National Forest.

Examining a young Jack pine in Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest. Credit: Michelle Werts/American Forests

Our friends at Hiawatha predict that in the next few decades, more and more Kirtland’s warbler will be finding their way north, and since the bird only accepts Jack pine forests that are at least four years old as habitat, now is the time to make sure the species has a northern home to turn to. This is why we’ve been partnering with Hiawatha consistently since 2007, as we’re planning for the Kirtland’s warbler’s future. (Fun Fact: The first Global ReLeaf project was planting Jack pine for Kirtland’s warbler back in 1990.)

But Jack pine and Kirtland’s warbler aren’t the only twosome that needs to be looked after in the country. Our friends at the American Bird Conservancy have put together a series of helpful guides on how to manage forests across the country for various species of birds.

  • Land Manager’s Guide to Cavity-Nesting Bird Habitat and Populations in Ponderosa Pine Forests of the Pacific Northwest – This guide is intended to provide land managers in ponderosa pine habitats with information on bird species’ status, distribution, density, habitat relationships and potential responses to habitat management or restoration activities.
  • An acorn woodpecker, a species associated with Pacific Northwest oak habitat

    An acorn woodpecker, a species associated with Pacific Northwest oak habitat. Credit: Don DeBold

    Land Manager’s Guide to Bird Habitat and Populations in Oak Ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest Part One | Part Two – This provides land managers in oak habitats with information on bird species’ status, distribution, density, habitat relationships, and potential responses to oak habitat management or restoration activities. The report is divided into two downloadable files; part one is the land manager’s guide, and part two are the species accounts.

  • Managing Land in the Piedmont of Virginia for the Benefit of Birds and Other Wildlife – Often overlooked in its importance to birds, the Piedmont provides valuable nesting, migration and wintering habitat that is scarce in other parts of the state. This report details the many simple changes one can make to benefit birds in this region.
  • Northeast Bird Monitoring Handbook – This handbook presents 10 steps that optimize the value of bird monitoring when designing new programs, modifying existing ones or applying results to the practice of bird conservation.
  • Field Guide to Southeast Bird Monitoring Protocols and Programs – This guide is targeted at researchers, land managers and biologists in the southeast bird conservation community and beyond. The main objective of the guide is to serve as a starting point when considering a monitoring program by summarizing many of the protocols that are available.

As you can see, there are many, many factors that must be considered in ensuring healthy forest habitats. And we’re only talking about how to keep them healthy for bird populations. When you add in keeping forests healthy for other wildlife species, for human recreation, for drinking water, for clean air and more, well, it’s a big job. That’s why we’ve been helping forests since 1875 thanks to the help of members like you.

A Burning Alaska

by Scott Maxham
Cloudy Alaskan wilderness

Cloudy Alaskan wilderness Credit: Daniel Hoherd

Since it seems the media only highlights the forest fires that take place in the lower 48 states, many people would be surprised to know that millions of acres of forestland is burned in Alaska each year. Yes, you read correctly, Alaska. The National Interagency Fire Center reports that Alaskan fires have burned 1,043,908 acres so far this year. In comparison, this is 10 times the amount of acres that have burned in California this year. In fact, Alaska has burned more in the last few years than it has in the past 10,000 years, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the study, researchers analyzed charcoal samples found in 14 lakes in the Yukon Flats of Alaska to study the history of fire in the boreal forest. They discovered that over the last 10,000 years, there have been periods of increased fire activity in the region, most notably during two distinct periods:

  • Between 6,000 and 3,000 years ago, which the researchers hypothesize was due to an increase in the flammable black spruce.
  • And 1,000 years ago during a period referred to as the Medieval Climate Anomaly, which was a warm, dry period similar to today’s climate.

Both of these periods pale in comparison, though, to the fire activity of the last few decades. According to the report, the Yukon Flats area experienced an average of 10 fires per 1,000 years over the last 3,000 years. Over the last 50 years, that number has risen to 20 fires every 1,000 years.

What does this level of fire do to the boreal forest? The forest changes, as less flammable trees survive and reproduce. Periods of increased fire activity mean that the coniferous white and black spruce are replaced by deciduous trees, such as aspen and birch trees. This process can take a long time, which is why we see it as beneficial to help out nature by planting trees that will survive forest fires.

In 2012, American Forests Global ReLeaf supported a project in Tok, Alaska, that planted 2,700 trees. Not just any old trees, but birch trees that are resistant to fire, but still provide a healthy forest habitat. The trees were primarily planted around a school that acts as a community evacuation center. It is important that such a place be away from flammable trees, but still be surrounded by nature.

Birch trees

Birch trees credit: Marc Buehler

A complicating factor of increased fire activity in boreal forests is carbon. Boreal forests make up 10 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain half of the world’s underground soil carbon, which is released by forest fires. This contributes to a positive feedback loop in which forests burn and cause temperatures to rise, which could lead to more forest fires.

The researchers behind the Yukon Flats study are hopeful, though, that history will repeat itself in Alaska, with deciduous trees replacing coniferous ones and thus stabilizing wildfire rates in the region. Only time will tell if this comes to pass.


Dreaming Big

by Susan Laszewski
Needles of the tamarack in autumn

The needles of the tamarack change color in autumn. Credit: Kim Faires

Big, bigger, biggest. It’s no surprise that here at American Forests, the headquarters of the National Big Tree Program, we have big trees and champion trees on the brain quite a bit. But we’re not the only ones. People take a lot of pride in their local big trees, and big trees make for quite a story.

We recently heard about a very special, very big tamarack (Larix laricina, also known as an American larch) in Nashua, N.H., that’s been generating a lot of local buzz. Local resident Tracy Pappas told, “Not that long ago, the neighborhood thought we would have to save up money to tear down that tree,” explaining, “At certain times of the year, the tree looks dead.”

That’s because tamaracks are one of few softwoods to drop their needles in the winter, after they turn yellow in the fall, just like a hardwood’s leaves. Residents that were unfamiliar with the species mistook the yearly transformation for illness.

Tamarack trees in different stages of losing their needles.

Tamarack trees in different stages of losing their needles. Credit: funpics47/Flickr

That is, until it was nominated for the New Hampshire Big Tree Program. It was nominated by Kevin Martin, a big tree enthusiast who’s working on a book about big New Hampshire trees. Martin tells he hopes the book will help people recognize and identify native tree species to avoid such confusion. Ultimately, what seems at first glance like a friendly competition among trees is really about education.

It’s a goal that aligns with the goal of the National Big Tree Program. Preserving and promoting the iconic stature of notable big trees helps to educate people about the key role that trees and forests play in sustaining a healthy environment. By helping people become familiar with different species, the national and state big tree programs are also helping to ensure that residents are more aware of whether a tree is healthy or not.

Now, for the question on everyone’s mind: Does this tree have anything else in common with national champions? Like say, its size? The Nashua tamarack is 79 feet tall with a circumference of 118 inches and a crown spread of 56 feet, giving it a total of 212 points. That’s not too far behind the 219 points the current national champion in Minnesota claims. Could national recognition be in this tree’s future? Only time will tell.

Luckily, when it comes to new national champions, the wait is never too long. The National Register of Big Trees is updated each fall and spring, but applications are accepted on a rolling basis. So, get out and get measuring! If you’ve never measured a tree before, check out our measuring guidelines to find how you can measure a nominee with just a ruler and a string or tape measure. And don’t forget to snap a picture of your friendly giant. Happy hunting!

The Forest Service Assists America’s Pastime

by Alison Share, Environmental Public Policy Associate, Crowell & Moring LLP
broken bat

Broken bat at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 2011. Credit: Keith Allison

Something special happens about mid-February every year. The days become a little less gray and a little less cold. There is promise on the wind — of warmer weather and sunnier days. If you close your eyes, you can smell the grass, hear the cheers and the crack of the bat, taste the Cracker Jacks. February and March are the preseason of the most glorious seven months of the year. Baseball.

The 2013 major league season is more than halfway over; we’ve just had the Mid-Summer Classic, also known as the All-Star game, and we are about to hit the dog days of August before racing into September, the playoffs and then the (not quite) World Series. Although some teams have seen the promise of the beginning of the season fade into the inevitability of mediocrity, many other teams still have a view to the playoffs and October glory.

Many fans bring a glove to games in the hope of snagging a foul ball, but that is not the only potential flying object from the field of play. Unlike in the other levels of baseball — from Little League to college — where metal bats are used, major league baseball bats are made from only one type of material — wood. And wooden bats, encountering pitches that can exceed 100 mph, only need the ball to strike one weaker spot on the bat before they break into two or shatter into multiple pieces. The results of these broken bats do not create cinema-quality moments like the one at the end of “The Natural.” Instead, flying bat pieces can create moments of fear for players, managers and fans alike.

Ángel Berroa breaks a bat

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ángel Berroa breaks a bat. Credit: Malingering/Flickr

But Major League Baseball, working with the U.S. Forest Service researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory, has spent the money and time over the last five years to make safer baseball bats. Researchers examined every broken bat that occurred in the major leagues from July through September 2008 while studying video of every bat breakage from 2009 onwards. Using these bats and the video, the folks at the Forest Products Laboratory were able to chart the composition, the cut and the quality of the bat and the wood, allowing them to pinpoint the causes of bat failure.

The two leading factors are, perhaps unsurprisingly, wood grain and density. A bat that is crafted with the grain, thus having a straight grain along the length of the bat is less likely to break into two than a bat that is crafted across the wood grain, leaving the grain angled. And while maple and ash bats continue to be the overwhelming favorite of major league players, a low-density maple bat is more likely to shatter into multiple pieces than ash or higher-density maple bats.

Seeing Restoration at Work

by American Forests

By Michelle Werts

A butterfly at the 2012 Muskegon Partnership for Trees project site.

A butterfly at the 2012 Muskegon Partnership for Trees project site. Credit: Michelle Werts/American Forests

I never knew that walking through a forest could feel like walking on the beach, but that was the experience I had last week on the west coast of Michigan.

On Thursday, my forest restoration colleagues and I were in Muskegon visiting the project sites of work we’ve supported through the American Forests and Alcoa Foundation Partnership for Trees Program. Three years ago, we partnered with Alcoa Foundation on this 10-year initiative to identify restoration needs near Alcoa plant locations throughout the world. That led us to Muskegon and the dedicated Muskegon Conservation District, which has been conserving local natural resources since 1938.

American Forests' Jami Westerhold and Megan Higgs discuss the 2011 Muskegon Partnership for Trees project with the Muskegon Conservation District's Dallas Goldberg.

American Forests’ Jami Westerhold and Megan Higgs discuss the 2011 Muskegon Partnership for Trees project with the Muskegon Conservation District’s Dallas Goldberg. Credit: Michelle Werts/American Forests

The Muskegon Conservation District conducts a variety of conservation activities, from watershed health — one of their major recent projects has been helping restore White Lake, which they are hoping to get removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Areas of Concern” list — to protecting and managing more than 1,200 acres of forested land. This, of course, is where the district’s work and our interests align.

Over the last three years, three Muskegon Conservation District projects have been funded through the American Forests and Alcoa Foundation Partnership for Trees, and we got to see all of them during our trip last week. These projects have been focused on helping some of Muskegon’s forests recover from outbreaks of bark beetles and the disease diplodia, which have been affecting the area’s red pine — a species with an interesting history in Michigan.

A native species to the state, much of the red pine was cleared to make way for agriculture as the state was settled. Then, during the era of the Civilian Conservation Corps, that enterprising group of men restored stands of red pine to Michigan. After that, the U.S. Forest Service used red pine stands in Muskegon for various experiments for management and other research purposes. After decades under Forest Service management, these experimental stands were passed along to the Muskegon Conservation District, and because of their monoculture of red pine due to the experiments, when the beetles and disease struck, they struck hard.

On location at the 2012 Muskegon Partnership for Trees project site.

On location at the 2012 Muskegon Partnership for Trees project site. Credit: Michelle Werts/American Forests

Our hosts in Michigan walked us through multiple sites planted through the financial help of American Forests and Alcoa, explaining how they had salvaged what they could of the damaged red pine while preparing the forest sites for replanting. Over the last three years, more than 55,000 trees have been planted in the Muskegon area through our Partnership for Trees with Alcoa Foundation. Each year, Alcoa employees have joined the Muskegon Conservation District to assist in tree planting and restoration work.

From a restoration perspective, one of the most exciting things about these projects to our team is the diversity of tree species and age that the district is using in their plantings — more than a dozen different species are being used. Through a combination of hardwoods and conifers of varying ages, a healthy, diverse forest stand will develop in this Michigan community. As for that sandy soil I mentioned at the beginning, it’s very common in this part of Michigan — being on the coast of Lake Michigan — so all of the species being planted must be compatible with these unique growing conditions. Of course, the Muskegon Conservation District has this covered: only trees native to the area are being used and only ones that can survive a beach-like soil. Seeing these little seedlings flourishing in this environment was heart-warming.

Overall, we had a lovely trip and are proud of the work we’ve been able to accomplish in Michigan with the help of the Muskegon Conservation District and Alcoa Foundation.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Plant Trees

by Susan Laszewski
Lemonade money for trees

Credit: Amanda Edwards

There’s absolutely nothing like a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. But when that lemonade goes to help a cause you believe in, it tastes even sweeter. We recently heard about two young entrepreneurial minds that are using this principle to the benefit of forests.

Amanda Edwards of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, recently wrote to tell us about her 10-year-old son’s lemonade stand. According to Edwards, her son loves trees so much that he began to wonder if he cared too much. She told him, “It’s not possible to care too much … and that it just meant he has a passion.” She then encouraged him to think of a way to help trees over the summer.

lemonade stand

The young conservationists at work. Credit: Amanda Edwards

And so, the idea of creating and running a homemade lemonade stand to raise money for American Forests was born. With mouthwatering merchandise and a commendable cause, who could resist? Last we heard, the young conservationist, together with his seven-year-old sister, has already earned enough to plant 300 trees, which we’ll do proudly for him.

So, if you’re visiting the beaches of Maine this summer, keep an eye out for a lemonade stand that supports forests. And if you can’t make it to Maine, but these young tree-huggers have inspired you, you can always become a member of American Forests and protect our trees. It may not quench your thirst the same way, but hopefully, it will begin to sate your hunger to help our planet’s forests.

Raising money to plant trees

Credit: Amanda Edwards

The Giving Trees

by Scott Maxham

With obesity rates constantly climbing and 75 percent of adults not consuming the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables, could trees help humanity pick a pear in place of a burger? Many cities believe that free fruits and vegetables could be a simple way to engage the public and help us all stay healthy. Cities are seeing trees and plants that provide fruit, vegetables and nuts pop up all over — in medians, parking lots, abandoned lots, sidewalks and even graveyards.

Apple trees are among the fruit trees being planted in this project. Credit: Liz West

Apple trees are among the fruit trees being planted in this project. Credit: Liz West

It is a sad fact that eating fast food is cheaper than buying fruits or vegetables. The CDC recommends that fresh and free produce be made as accessible as fast food. I can see it now: Instead of a morning commuter running by a McDonalds, they can simply roll down the window and pick a fresh fruit.

As reported by CNN, plots of “forgotten” land in cities are being utilized by gorilla gardeners, who come in and plant produce — often in the night to avoid detection — but urban gardening is growing beyond these guerilla efforts:

  • In Seattle, city officials are creating a seven-acre “food forest” is being opened that will grow all types of food from apples and raspberries to walnuts.
  • In Provo, Utah, instead of placing planters that are expensive to maintain outside city hall, city planners planted produce plants instead, which were less costly for the city to maintain and let visitors go home with fresh food.
Fruit Tree growing by parking lot. Credit: Lars Plougman

Fruit Tree growing by parking lot. Credit: Lars Plougman

Urban gardening isn’t just for those on the West Coast, though. In Cincinnati, food crops are being planted along 28 miles of the Ohio River to provide a food source within walking distance to those who are not close to supermarkets. And the most famous address in the world has an urban food garden, as First Lady Michelle Obama planted an 1,100 square foot garden on the south lawn of the White House in 2009.

Here at American Forests, we also recognize the benefit fruit and produce trees can provide to urban communities. This year, in partnership with ALCOA Foundation, we are planting 500 fruit trees in Hannover/Hildesheim region of Germany. By planting on public and ecclesiastical spaces, as well as in the gardens of schools and other public buildings, this project is making sure the fruit it provides is available for all members of the community. As tree lovers and urban forests supporters, we definitely like the idea of fruit trees helping improve health, while creating nicer greenspaces in our cities.

Are Beetles Fanning Western Wildfires?

by American Forests

By Michelle Werts

Members of the U.S. Army fight the Black Forest Fire in Colorado

Pilots and crewmembers of the 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, go into the thick smoke to release water onto the burning fires in Black Forest, Colo., June 12, 2013. Credit: Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division/U.S. Army

The last two wildfire seasons have been devastating to Coloradans. Lives have been lost, and homes and communities destroyed. Last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire caused more than $450 million in damages, destroying 347 homes in the Colorado Springs area and killing two people. This year’s recently contained Black Forest Fire is starkly similar: almost $300 million in insurance claims filed already, more than 500 homes destroyed and two lives lost. These two fires represent the costliest wildfires in state history.

And this heightened fire intensity has many wondering if there is a connection between these fires and the 3.35 million acres of Colorado’s forests that have been decimated by mountain pine beetle and the additional 924,000 acres affected by spruce beetle. Scientists’ opinions are mixed, according to a news story by I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS.

The research of Dr. Monica Turner, a University of Wisconsin professor, and Dr. Jesse Logan, a former U.S. Forest Service scientist and college professor, outlines the cycle of a beetle-killed forest. This cycle is most easily described by colors:

  • Green is a happy, healthy forest.
  • Red represents a forest in the throes of a beetle infestation with its green needles now red in death.
  • Gray is the final stage, as the trees lose their dead needles.
A damaged, multi-colored forest due to the mountain pine beetle

A damaged, multi-colored forest due to the mountain pine beetle. Credit: U.S. Forest Service, Region 2, Rocky Mountain Region Archive,

Turner and Logan tell I-News that forests in the green and red stages are much more combustible than those in the gray. “The overall trend would be that immediately after trees are killed and they still have all those fine fuels, needles in particular, on the tree, then it’s highly flammable, probably more flammable than a green forest,” Logan says. “But after those needles fall and that can be, like in lodgepole, a couple years after the tree is killed, then the standing forest is actually less likely to lead to a crown fire [one in which fire spreads rapidly from the top of one tree — the crown — to the next] than a green forest.”

So green and red mean a highly flammable forest, but gray is okay? Not so fast, says Matt Jolly, a researcher at the U.S. Forest Service’s Missoula Fire Sciences Lab in Montana. He tells I-News, “A standing gray tree, particularly one like a spruce, will have a lot of really, really fine dead branches. It may not have needles, but it will have those fine branches that will also burn and support a crown fire.”

All of the scientists agree on one thing, though: More research is needed on the consequences and effects of beetle damage to our Mountain West.

And that’s what we’re doing at American Forests. We’re working with top scientists, forest managers and more for our Endangered Western Forests initiative, which is protecting and repairing beetle and disease-ravaged forests in the West. Forests across the Rockies from Colorado into Canada are going from green to red to gray at an alarming rate, and all hands are needed on deck to save these iconic forests. Please consider making a donation to our Endangered Western Forests program today to help us help our Mountain West forests.

Defenders of the Coasts

by Susan Laszewski

There is a silent army out there protecting our coasts from invasion — a second Coast Guard, if you will. This army has protected us not from war, but from hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes.

Loxahatchee Slough in Palm Beach County, Florida

Wetlands, like Loxahatchee Slough in Palm Beach County, Florida, act as a coastal buffer. Credit: Kim Seng,

I’m talking about coastal buffers — the mangrove forests, wetlands and oyster beds that protect us from hurricanes, floods and other catastrophic natural events. A new report published in Nature Climate Change finds that without these important natural defenses, twice as many Americans would be exposed to storm surges. That’s more than 1.4 million people who live within a kilometer of either coast, not to mention billions of dollars in property value that would be at risk.

And that’s just the risk that today’s storms would bring without coastal buffers. The researchers also modeled several scenarios of rising sea levels expected in the coming century. They found that by 2100, as many as 2.1 million people will likely be living in “high hazard” areas compared to the current 1.4 million people. That’s an additional 700,000 people who will depend on coastal buffer ecosystems to protect their lives and homes from extreme weather events. Scarily, that’s the best-case scenario, as the study did not take projected population growth into account.

But for all their importance, these ecosystems are not always valued as they should be. Though destruction of wetlands has slowed since the 1970s, we are still losing more than 13,000 acres a year. Mangroves are faring better in the United States — being protected in Florida — but worldwide, the outlook is not so good. Only 6.9 percent of the planet’s mangroves are officially protected, according to a 2010 U.S. Geological Survey study. In the last half a century, we’ve lost 50 percent of the world’s mangroves, largely due to the increase in industrial shrimp farming.

Of course, these ecosystems are not the only factor in how well coasts are protected from severe weather. There’s also infrastructure to take into account, as well as policy regarding how close to the shore developers can build. But what the study makes clear is that without this silent army of ecosystems, people would face substantially more risk from extreme weather events.

That’s why many of our Global ReLeaf projects work to restore these ecosystems. We’re reforesting wetlands in Illinois and South Carolina. Through our work with Alcoa Foundation and China Mangrove Conservation Network in Fujian Province, China, and the Sumatran Orangutan Society in Indonesia for example, we’re helping organizations in places with fewer protections for mangroves preserve those important trees to help protect coast dwellers and us all.