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Newly cut down forest at a deforestation area with trunks and branches lying on the ground, in spring sunlight and blue sky

Forest fires and its resulting deforestation from tree loss are continually in the news. We read about the fires in Australia, the Amazon Rainforest and here in the United States. Unfortunately, as June is rolling into July, look for another busy wildfire season in the West. A relatively dry fall and winter coupled with mountain snowpacks that melted faster than normal, and overall warmer and drier-than-average conditions forecast this summer will keep firefighters busy.

Fact: In 2015, global forest cover fell below ten billion acres for the first time in human history.

Major deforestation is not only caused by forest fires, however. What is deforestation, technically? Deforestation is the permanent removal of trees to make room for something besides forest. This can include clearing the land for agriculture or grazing, or using the timber for fuel, construction or manufacturing.

Fact: Every year, more than 20 million football fields’ worth of forests (15 billion trees!) continue to be cut down.Stacks of trees cut down as the result of deforestation

Forests cover more than 30% of the Earth’s land surface, according to the World Wildlife Fund. These forested areas can provide food, medicine and fuel for more than a billion people. Worldwide, forests provide 13.4 million people with jobs in the forest sector, and another 41 million people have jobs related to forests. Forests are a resource, but they are also large, undeveloped swaths of land that can be converted for purposes such as agriculture and grazing. In North America, about half the forests in the eastern part of the continent were cut down for timber and farming between the 1600s and late 1800s, according to National Geographic.

Fact: At the current rate of deforestation, Earth’s rainforests, including the Amazon, could be completely gone in 100 years.

That’s bad news for everyone, especially for the 1/2 of the world’s terrestrial flora and fauna and 3/4 of all birds that live in and around forests. Additionally, 70% of land animals and plant species live in forests. The trees of the rainforest that provide shelter for some species also provide the canopy that regulates the temperature. Destruction of these forests along with its resulting change in temperature has a devastating effect on the forests’ inhabitants.

Deforestation in tropical regions can also affect the way water vapor is produced over the canopy, which causes reduced rainfall. A 2019 study published in the journal Ecohydrology showed that parts of the Amazon rainforest that were converted to agricultural land had higher soil and air temperatures, which can exacerbate drought conditions. In comparison, forested land had rates of evapotranspiration that were about three times higher, adding more water vapor to the air.

Fact: industrial agriculture accounts for around 73% of deforestation worldwide. The majority of this can be attributed to meat (particularly beef cattle), soy, and palm oil.

Meat producers clear vast swaths of forest to graze their livestock and in turn, the production of livestock feed accounts for 80% of the soybeans grown—and you may be surprised to learn that poultry and pigs eat up almost as much of that soy as cattle does.

Many forests are also cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil and is found in half of all supermarket products. It’s cheap, versatile and can be added to both food and personal products like lipsticks and shampoo. Its popularity has spurred people to clear tropical forests to grow more palm trees. Deforestation to make way for a Palm Oil PlantationGrowing the trees that produce the oil requires the leveling of native forest and the destruction of local peatlands, increasing harmful effects on the ecosystem.

Fact: One mature tree can consume 48 pounds of carbon a year!

Forests play a critical role in mitigating climate change because they act as a carbon sink—soaking up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere. Trees also absorb carbon dioxide, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity. As climate change continues, trees play an important role in carbon sequestration, or the capture and storage of excess carbon dioxide. Tropical trees alone are estimated to provide about 23% of the climate mitigation that’s needed to offset climate change, according to the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit global research institute.

But once trees are chopped down, all that absorbed carbon gets released right back into the atmosphere.  Deforestation, therefore, not only removes vegetation that is important for removing carbon dioxide from the air, but the act of clearing the forests also produces greenhouse gas emissions. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that deforestation is the second-leading cause of climate change. (The first is the burning of fossil fuels.) In fact, deforestation accounts for nearly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Stopping deforestation, then, is absolutely critical if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Solution: Develop alternatives to deforestation, such as sustainable farming, to decrease the need for tree clearing.Earth design with words There Is No Planet "B"

As large amounts of forests are cleared away, allowing exposed earth to whither and die and the habitats of innumerable species to be destroyed, the indigenous communities who live there and depend on the forest to sustain their way of life are also under threat.

The loss of forests has an immediate and direct effect on their lifestyle that we in the highly industrialized parts of the world, despite our own dependency on what the rainforest provides, will never know. The level of immediacy is exponentially greater for indigenous peoples.

If communities in developing nations were able to adopt sustainable farming practices or employed new farming technologies and crops, the need for more land might be diminished, according to the UN’s Sustainable Forest Management Toolbox.  Indigenous people and local forest communities are on the front line of the battle for the forests they call home. When you plant your trees through The Gifted Tree in Africa and Asia, the project not only is replacing trees, but is educating community members, especially the youth, as to the long-term benefits of trees. Areas of education include farmers being trained in best tree planting methods, nursery preparation, farm conservation and finance, and irrigation management. They also learned methods and techniques to protect trees to withstand local climatic conditions and thus help to ensure the newly planted trees’ long-term survival. Most of these individuals have no knowledge of proper land management techniques, but this training will be a significant factor in the fight against deforestation.

Solution: Plant More trees.Replanting trees in deforested areas

Forests can also be restored, through replanting trees in cleared areas or simply allowing the forest ecosystem to regenerate over time. The goal of restoration is to return the forest to its original state, before it was cleared, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The sooner a cleared area is reforested, the quicker the ecosystem can start to repair itself. Afterward, wildlife will return, water systems will reestablish, carbon will be sequestered and soils will be replenished. Remember, trees help control the level of water in the atmosphere by helping to regulate the water cycle. In deforested areas, there is less water in the air to be returned to the soil. This then causes dryer soil and the inability to grow crops.

If done correctly, reforestation can restore damaged ecosystems, stabilize soil and soil erosion, support the water cycle, reduce coastal flooding and slowly recover the vital ecosystem services that depend on. Trees also help the land to retain water and topsoil, which provides the rich nutrients to sustain additional forest life. Planting new trees is, ultimately, an investment in future forests and is the calling and mission of The Gifted Tree!

 

 

Colorful field of wild flowers

With the COVID-19 pandemic dominating the news and our lives, and with stress levels soaring because of it, I thought I would discuss a topic of a lighter note: Wildflower and Tree Seed Bombs. While it might suggest a topic of a less serious note, some of the words associated with the subject have some severe associations. Just the word “bomb” does not bring to mind something the family can make and do together. On the contrary, making these seed bombs is also a fun family project while we are subject to stay-at-home laws.

And the hobby of “guerrilla gardening” also does not conjure up an image of a fun way to spend a weekend day. Though it sounds radical, guerrilla gardening is not an overtly political or polarizing endeavor. Its objective is simple: transform unused land into gardens. People all over the globe are drawn to this humble mission and are taking up arms in the form of shovels, compost, plants, bulbs, and seed bombs in an attempt to bring their communities back to life.Urban guerrilla gardening site with new plants and trees

One might think that wildflower and tree seed bombing is a newfangled hipster way to plant seed and help the environment, but not so. Even though one can throw the seed bombs out of a moving car, from a bicycle, or on a hike, seed bombing is an ancient practice that goes back to the feudal days of Japan. While on the surface it seems like a simple concept, like most things in life, to get the most good out of it, one needs to put a little thought into it. Furthermore, believe it or not, seed bombing can be illegal, so here are some tips from a New York Times article and from a few other DIY gardening articles.

Recipe

While there are a number of seed bomb recipes one can use, make sure you use one that can lead to the greatest rate of seed germination and ultimate success. Just like any good recipe in the kitchen, for this garden recipe you will need a mixing bowl and baking sheets. Summarizing a recipe from Daniel Cunningham, a horticulturalist at Texas A&M, add one-part native wildflower seed mix to four parts powdered clay and five parts fine-gained compost. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly and stir in water slowly until you have a thick bread-dough consistency.

Gather a small pinch of this seed-infused mud mixture and roll it into marble-sized balls. A cup of seeds can yield dozens of the seed bomb balls. Set the balls on a cookie sheet and let them dry in the sun. These clay balls protect the seed from the heat of the sun. They’re heavy enough to be unaffected by the wind or heavy rains and the hard clay casing deters animal nibblers as well. Person holding a seed bomb ball in their fingersIn dry areas, the shape of the ball actually gives enough shade to conserve moisture. The seeds begin to germinate, and the ball breaks apart. The small pile of crumbles provides the start for the root system but is still heavy enough to anchor the emerging seeds to the ground.

Types of seeds to use and when to plant

Make sure the seeds you are using are native to your area, whether they be wildflower or tree seeds. The last thing you want to do is introduce invasive species to your area. I have spent countless hours in the local National Park and surrounding areas removing invasive species that are wrecking havoc on old established forest growth.

Fall to early spring is the best time to make and throw seed bombs. Seed bombs need water and moderate temperatures to succeed. The seeds of many northern species need to experience a winter cold period before the seeds will germinate. Sowing the seeds during the cold and wet time of year will give these seeds the best chance to work their way into a soil niche and provide the cold stratification they need for germination. By mid-May, the landscape begins to warm, and the soil dries out. This makes late spring a riskier environment for seed germination if you cannot provide supplemental water.Tree Seed Bomb

Leaving a Positive Impact

Now that your seed bombs are ready to go and the time of year for planting is right, now what. Believe it or not, you just can’t throw your seed bombs wherever you want. It can actually be illegal to do so. We don’t want you to end up in jail! Don’t throw your seed bombs on farm land, you don’t want to interfere with agricultural production. If in an urban area, while most people won’t call the police on you for trying to liven up a blighted area, it is best to get permission first so you won’t be accused of vandalism or trespassing. Seed bombs are a delightful idea and, if done with the planning previously discussed, I really can’t see why anyone would reasonably object.

Using native plant seed balls is a great way to reseed the landscape and to reclaim bare patches of land. In Texas, some of the highest concentrations of wildflowers can be found along highways thanks in part to the work of former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, over 50 years ago. And there have even been proposals in recent years to adopt the idea on an industrial scale to repopulate vast areas with trees. Reforesting devastated, blighted areas that are lacking vegetation is what The Gifted Tree advocates, by planting memorial and celebration trees in 30 plus countries worldwide. As Lady Bird Johnson once said: “ugliness is so grim.”Beautiful purple wildflowers along Texas highways

Funeral flowers have always been the traditional bereavement gift to send when someone loses a cherished loved one. Sometimes, however, flowers are not appropriate or practical to send. As I write this during the COVID-19 pandemic, many flower shops are shut down and funeral services are extremely small if they are able to take place at all. However, now is an important time to send loved ones we’re separated from a memorable experience. Our deepest condolences go out to those affected by this crisis.

Gift trees planted in memory of a person or pet are a perfect remembrance gift and serve as an ideal alternative to sending flowers. Trees are still being planted in areas around the world where it is safe to do so or will start up again as soon as the conditions are right. The Gifted Tree plants in 30 plus countries around the world on six continents, and all of these areas are in desperate need of reforestation.

I have come up with five reasons why gift trees make unique flower alternatives which I will discuss more in depth below. I am sure there are more, but let us just focus on the five below:

Gift Trees Make a Powerful and Everlasting Tribute

Fresh flowers are beautiful and smell wonderful, but the fact of the matter is that they do only last a short period of time. Those sent from a florist are the freshest and best but will not survive much longer than a week. Furthermore, I have been at wakes and funeral services where the grieving family is inundated with flower arrangements. They have no way to transport them from the funeral home back home, nor do they have the space is their home to set them all out. Numerous times, because I am usually the last to leave, I am handed an arrangement to take simply because there is no other alternative except to throw them out.Dead Flower Arrangement

A gift tree on the other hand can last for 100 years or more and grow from a sapling to a majestic living monument.

Gift Trees have a Lower Price Point

This is not meant to be disrespectful to the floral industry as I realize there are a lot of factors that go into the price of a flower arrangement from transportation, to labor, to waste. However, it is hard to place an order for an arrangement that is less than $100, especially if one has to add in the cost of delivery. And this is not for a giant arrangement. Furthermore, if one wants to send a funeral wreath or casket spray, the cost can run much much higher. Again, all beautiful, but not necessarily within everyone’s budget.

Gift trees can create a memorable experience and at a much lower price point. Plantings with a unique certificate sent to the family start at $12.95 at The Gifted Tree, and on average run between $29 – $34.

Gift Trees are Good for the Environment

While the flower industry is certainly making inroads on the environmental front, the fact is that a lot of flowers currently are not grown locally but grown overseas. Shipping them stateside has a huge carbon footprint impact. Pesticides is another issue as the flower industry is one of the largest users of pesticides in the world. Pesticides can have both an adverse effect on workers, as they rarely have training on the safe use and handling of the chemicals, plus, the runoff of the pesticides into nearby lakes and streams pose a threat to water systems. Finally, there is the issue of waste to consider, and I am not just talking about stems that are discarded or dead flowers that are pitched. Think about the non-biodegradable foam that is used to hold the arrangements in place and the protective plastic wrap that is used.

Gift trees not only show the recipient that you care but are a gift to the world too. Simply, the environmental benefits of trees are enormous, including helping the air that we breath and the water that we drink.

Gift Trees are Practical Even Months After the Funeral

It is sad to say, but in this day and age with friends and acquaintances spread out over the globe, sometimes I do not hear of a death until weeks after the fact. I catch wind of it on social media or I finally get a phone call with the news. The funeral service has long since passed and visitation is no longer. At this point, it would not be appropriate to send flowers to the residence of the family of the deceased.

Planting a gift tree accompanied by our beautiful presentation certificates makes sense and is always appreciated even months after the service. It even makes sense to plant a tree in memory a year later, marking the year anniversary of the death. So, if you are late to the process, there is no reason to fret as the planting of a gift tree will still be appropriate and appreciated.

Gift Trees Show You Care during the Difficult Time of Bereavement

Sure, sending flowers can help during this tough time, but planting a memorial gift tree has all the above added benefits which make it the perfect alternative to flowers. As one recipient of our gift tree packaged noted: “The tree planting certificate presentation is much more than a card, it is a whole experience that provided me comfort at a time of grieving.”

Remember, speaking of creating a memorable experience, sending gift trees for happy occasions is always a perfect alternative also. If you have any doubts, check this out for the right time to send a gift tree.

From all of us at The Gifted Tree, please stay safe and healthy!

Brilliantly colored Cherry Blossom trees with Mt. Fuji in the background