Exposure to Trees and Nature Linked to Improved Attitudes and Well-Being Among Employees

Ever get sick of staring at the walls in your cubicle? Ever feel blah and mentally drained at work? You’re not alone. Studies show that workplace environment contributes to employee health and can influence your attitude and mood.

Some researchers suggest humans have an innate need to be connected with nature. This is called biophilia. But as housing density, commute times, and office hours increase, we are spending less and less time in natural environments.

Workplace stress costs American businesses up to US $190 billion every year in healthcare costs alone. This is why bringing nature into the office can have such a big impact on employee well-being.

Employees who have a view of nature from their desk experience a multitude of benefits. Some of these benefits include:

1) Increased self-esteem and mood, 2). find their job more challenging, 3) are less frustrated about tasks, 4) feel greater enthusiasm for the job, 5) report feelings of higher life satisfaction, 6) report better overall health than their coworkers without a view, and 7). Increased productivity at work. Additionally, desk workers without a view of nature claim 23% more incidences of illness over a six-month period.

Image result for indoor office environment with a view of nature outside

Exposure to nature and trees also reduces employee stress. Employees that have more contact to nature at work report significantly less perceived stress and health problems associated with stress. Studies have shown that stress influences mental health as well as increases chances of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. This tells us that trees and nature play a critical role in our well-being and that their importance cannot be understated.

Employers can increase employee attitudes, health and well-being by simply changing the work environment in a way that increases employees views of nature/trees. Incorporating nature into the workplace can take many different forms including living green walls, indoor trees/plants and planter boxes. Even views of nature on television screens or art can positively impact mood and well-being. Additional ideas to implement the concept may include increasing access to views by lowering or eliminating cubical walls and swapping rooms that block views with an open-concept type layout.  Employers could even take it a step further by increasing the landscaping surrounding the building, such as planting large canopy trees that can be seen from multiple locations and levels. If employers want to provide a place for their employees to relax and walk on their lunch hour, they could even create a trail with seating areas outside.

Image result for office environment with nature outside

Increased exposure to nature is perhaps the most simple and rewarding gift an employer can give to their employees. The gift of health and happiness is one that cannot be topped.

For more information on the benefits of nature in the workplace, click here. 

Trees and Soil May be Part of the Solution to Fighting Climate Change

It’s true, trees and soil sequester carbon dioxide (CO2), the heat trapping molecule that is causing the warming of our climate, and they have been for millions of years. In fact, they are experts at it. Global forests removed about one-third of fossil fuel emissions annually from 1990 to 2007.

They sequester carbon by removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced by a car driven 26,000 miles.

Trees remove pollution from the atmosphere, improving air quality and human health. In Los Angeles, trees remove nearly 2,000 tons of air pollution each year. And in Chicago, trees remove more than 18,000 tons of air pollution each year.

Image result for trees sequester carbon

We tend to think about solar panels and electric cars as solutions to climate change. But more studies with more numbers are emerging that indicate that our trees and soils may be better at lowering the rate of warming.

A new scientific study published in the Journal of Science Advances found that better management of forests, grasslands and soils in the United States could offset as much as 21 percent of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. At the high end of the projections, that would be roughly equivalent to taking every single car and truck in the country off the road.

The study identified a number of promising strategies, like replanting trees on degraded lands, changing logging practices to better protect existing forests and sequestering more carbon in farmland soils through new agricultural techniques.

Scientists claim that while natural climate solutions alone will not get us to zero carbon emissions, they can certainly help mitigate climate change and take some of the load off.

California has formed a partnership with 15 other states, including New York and Hawaii and are already looking at better managing their natural landscapes to store more carbon.

The new study suggests that policymakers could encourage more farmers to plant cover crops between their main harvests rather than leaving their fields bare, which would help pull more carbon from the air into the soil. While cover crops are becoming more common, the practice often requires extra labor or equipment, so financial incentives may be needed to speed adoption.

The study also noted that as cities expand, swaths of forests are being cleared out. Some cities in Oregon have already tried to restrict urban sprawl, a practice seemingly tricky to do.

Researchers have concluded that many of these strategies are relatively affordable and that reforesting unused land across the United States would cost between $10-$50 per ton of carbon dioxide avoided. That is cheaper than many subsidies to encourage clean energy, and in line with the cost per ton of several recent carbon tax proposals.

Based on these findings, it is evident that natural solutions such as better forest management practices may be some of the most cost effective and achievable solutions to climate change.

Green roofs are already becoming common in some parts of the world in an effort to increase canopy cover and decrease heat, which improves health and quality of life. Some cities in the United States already have green roofs, but perhaps they will become more common as our population continues to grow.

Image result for picture of trees in urban city

Photo credit:  Anton Malishev

Arbor Day 5th Grade Poster Contest

poster flier - short

 

CHARLOTTE, MI – The Michigan Arbor Day Alliance is happy to announce the 5th Grade Poster Contest! This 2018-2019 school year, Michigan 5th grade students are invited to use their best drawing, coloring, and painting skills, along with their imagination and creativity to submit a poster demonstrating the theme:

“Trees for Bees”

Last year, MADA re-launched this program and had a lot of fantastic entries mailed in. We loved seeing the creativity and talent of our Michigan 5th graders. We are bringing this contest back again for 2019! This will be a statewide contest open to all fifth-grade students.

Students are encouraged to use their imagination to create an original poster featuring the theme. First, second, and third place winners will be chosen by popular vote. Prizes will include a gift certificate for the winning student, a tree planting for the school or community, and a gift card for the participating teacher to help purchase classroom supplies. The first-place winner will also be invited to be recognized at the State Arbor Day Celebration in Lansing.

Trees are great teaching tools. Teachers can include this contest into lesson plans by talking about native trees that bees utilize for nesting and food. Classroom activities and lesson plans can be found on MADA’s website at www.miarbordayalliance.org.

All entries must be received by mail by March 4, 2019. See the contest rules and download an Entry Form at http://www.miarbordayalliance.org/poster-contest.html

If you have any questions, please contact Hannah Reynolds, the State Arbor Day Program Coordinator by calling 517-543-1512 x5 or emailing miarborday@gmail.com.

 

A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Christmas Tree

The holiday season is in full swing, and if you have not picked out a Christmas tree yet, don’t fret-these helpful tree descriptions and tips will allow you to pick out the perfect tree for your home! There are many different species of trees to choose from, so it can get a bit overwhelming if you go to a tree farm before doing your research on the different tree types. Whether you choose a pre-cut tree from a local tree farm or go for the choose-and-cut experience, you will find a variety of trees that offer something for everyone.

Advantages and drawbacks of the most common Christmas tree types (in no particular order):

1). Fraser Fir 

Fraser fir. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

Fraser fir. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

 

  • Pros: Very fragrant all season; great at holding onto its dark-green needles; can hold heavy ornaments thanks to its sturdy limbs
  • Cons: Looks dense and compact

2). Balsam Fir

Balsam fir

Balsam fir. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

 

  • Pros: Classic, strong Christmas tree scent that lasts; doesn’t lose its dark-green needles; perfect, symmetrical pyramid shape
  • Cons: Not great for heavy ornaments because of its flexible branches

3). Douglas Fir

douglas fir

Douglas Fir. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

 

  • Pros: Super easy to find; beautiful light or blue-green needles that are soft to the touch and sweetly scented; very affordable; rarely drops needles (unless it runs out of water)
  • Cons:  Can’t hold heavy ornaments well; a shorter, more compact tree

4). Blue Spruce

Blue spruce

Blue spruce. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

 

  • Pros: Beautiful silvery-blue needles; incredibly symmetrical tree shape; holds onto its needles; great at holding lots of heavy ornaments; doesn’t drop many needles (unless the room is too warm)
  • Cons: Sharp needles (may be good if you have pets and want to keep them off the tree); not much fragrance, unless the needles are broken then they’ll smell unpleasant; smaller in size

5). Scots or Scotch Pine

Scots pine

Scots pine. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

 

  • Pros: One of the most popular Christmas trees; holds needles well; long-lasting pine scent
  • Cons: Lack-luster color; crooked trunks are common

6). White or Concolor Fir

Concolor fir

Concolor fir. Photo credit: Jill O’Donnell, MSU

 

  • Pros: Blue-green, citrus-scented needles that smell all season; soft-to-the-touch needles that don’t fall off
  • Cons: Can be more expensive because it takes a long time to grow

7). White Pine

White pine

White pine. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

 

  • Pros: Blue-green needles that are soft to the touch; doesn’t drop many needles; affordable; good tree for those with sensitive noses or allergic reactions to strong pine scents; very tall, making it great for rooms with high ceilings
  • Cons: Slight (almost no) scent; can’t hold heavy ornaments; can wilt if lacking water

8). Black Hills Spruce

Black hills

Black hills spruce. Photo credit: Bert Cregg and Jill O’Donnell, MSU

 

  • Pros: Gray-green needles that hold much better than other spruces; holds heavy ornaments, softer and shorter needles than Blue Spruce
  • Cons: Still drops some needles; needles smell bad, like a skunk or cat pee, when crushed

 

If you are going for a classic scent, you can’t go wrong with Balsam fir or any other of the fir species.

As you can see, each of these tree types offer something different. So it is important to know what you are looking for in a Christmas tree before you head out to your local tree farm!

For helpful tips for success with your first real Christmas tree, click here.

Wildlife Depends on Coniferous Trees, Especially in Winter

As we enter another cold Michigan winter, the wildlife starts becoming more dependent on our coniferous trees and shrubs. Conifers provide vital nesting, roosting and cover from predators, along with food from both the seeds and needles.

These evergreens also provide wildlife with thermal cover that will keep them warm throughout the snowy season. Snow accumulation is generally less under conifer stands, which makes it easier for wildlife to roam around to find food. Common conifer food sources are cones; and on yew and juniper, berry-like seeds remain on the trees well into the winter season, which are critical for wildlife in areas where there is deep snow.

pine stand

All trees provide benefits to wildlife in some form, but what makes conifers special is that maintaining healthy populations of white-tailed deer, squirrels, snowshoe hare, cottontail rabbits, Kirtland’s warbler and other wildlife species would not be possible without them. In winter, there are almost no other trees/shrubs that provide protection from predators, thermal cover and food sources for wildlife. That is what makes conifers so important to the environment.  The endangered Kirtland’s warbler exclusively depends on a single species of Jack pine for food and nesting. Other wildlife, such as deer,  utilize a variety of species of conifers for thermal protection and browse.

Humans may not eat conifers, but we do utilize them for furniture and paper products. We also love having these trees in our homes for the holidays!

We may not depend on conifers for survival, but wildlife certainly does, and we can all do our part to ensure these unique trees/shrubs are around in the future for Michigan’s woodland creatures! If you are a homeowner and want to help wildlife out, consider going to a local nursery and purchase some native coniferous trees or shrubs! It is better to plant conifer trees in clusters because it will provide more cover as well as more food.

 

 

 

Why are Urban Forests so Important?

It is common that in our busy every day lives we forget how important it is to get outside and submerse ourselves in nature in order to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is important to acknowledge how urban forests help us to get away from our hectic lifestyles. They provide essential green spaces for us to forget about our worries and have fun. Research now suggests that people who spend more time in nature experience less stress and are generally happier. Other studies have shown that spending more time outdoors can improve short-term memory and concentration.

Central-Park-Bike-Tour_New-York_Day-Time-650x356

Urban forests can take on many forms such as urban parks, street trees, landscaped boulevards, gardens, river and coastal promenades, green-ways, river corridors, wetlands, nature preserves, shelter belts of trees, and working trees at former industrial sites. These different types of urban forests ultimately form the green infrastructure in which people depend on.

 

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
John Muir

 

According to the U.S. Forest Service, roughly 130 million acres of America’s forests are located right in our cities and towns. In addition, the 2010 census reported that nearly 81% of Americans live in urban areas, up 3% from just a decade earlier. This indicates that we are becoming a more urbanized nation, which makes it crucial that we continue to prioritize planting trees in urban areas.

Central Park aerial view, Manhattan, New York

Urban forests provide many critical benefits to people and wildlife, including reducing noise, providing places to recreate and providing homes and food for wildlife. Trees help filter our air and water, control storm water and lower energy consumption by providing shade on hot summer days. In addition, trees add some beauty and aesthetic appeal to the urban landscape and bring in more tourism to our cities, which boosts the economy. As the U.S. Forest Service says, “urban forests strengthen social cohesion, spur community revitalization, and add economic value to our communities.”

 

 

 

Credits:

Pictures obtained from Google

Image 1: https://www.google.com/search?biw=1752&bih=1027&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=curlW-nnNI-5ggfO4p2QBg&q=central+park+riding+bikes&oq=central+park+riding+bikes&gs_l=img.3…972501.974502..974837…0.0..0.241.1791.1j11j1……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i67j0i5i30j0i8i30j0i24.cDM9hvSNRMo#imgrc=HgNvCSgPcRspHM:

Image 2: http://www.starrwhitehouse.com/project/central-park-projects/

Other sources: https://www.fs.fed.us/managing-land/urban-forests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s that Growing on my Tree?!?!

What’s That Growing on My Tree?
MSU EXTENSION FORESTRY ARTICLE
From:  Bill Cook, MSU Extension Forester/Biologist
Date:  November, 2018
Lichens are common and highly variable life forms.  They are a symbiotic association between a fungus and an alga or bacterium.  They grow in a wide range of environments, on many substrates.
Ever notice something growing on the trunk of a tree?  Mosses are common but seldom generate concern.  Although, the microclimates of tree trunks can produce some intriguing life forms.  In addition to mosses are many common lichens (pronounced LIE-kins), which are sometimes mis-identified as mosses or harmful fungi.
Lichens are a weird classification of living things, partly defined by what they are not.  They are not plants.  They do not have roots, leaves, or flowers.  Lichens defy absolute descriptions.
Lichens have curious relationships, often complex and variable.  Basically, a specialized fungus provides shelter for either a species of green algae or blue-green bacteria (or both, in some cases!).  In turn, the algae/bacteria provide food and energy to the fungus via photosynthesis.  These algae or bacteria grow within the fungal filaments.  Lichens are different from either of their constituent parts.
Lichens are not parasites on trees or other plants.  Lichens use tree trunks merely as a substrate, or a place to grow.  They’ll grow on rocks, buildings, and other structures, too.
Worldwide, there are thousands of lichen species.  They can occupy some fairly extreme environments.  Lichens are long-lived and slow-growing.  There’s an entire science involving lichens.  They are classified by the shape and size of the non-reproductive structures, the “thallus” (not a term unique to lichens).  Lichen biology has its own lexicon of unique terms.
Lichen taxonomy is largely based on the constituent fungus.  Sometimes, the same fungus will harbor different species of algae.  It’s the fungus that also produces the fruiting bodies, which produce spores.  Identification to the species level may require the application of certain chemicals to see how the lichen color reacts.  Needless to say, lichen ID isn’t always easy.
The more common lichen types in the Great Lakes area are grouped by “fruticose”, “foliose” and “crustose” appearances.  The fruticose lichens are branched or tubed, and resemble mosses.  The foliose appear flattened or leafy, and the crustose, as the name implies, are crusty.  Most are pale green or brownish-green.  Some are orange or yellow.  However, the variety of appearances ranges widely.
Old man’s beard (Usnea longissima), British soldier (Cladonia cristatella) and reindeer “moss” (Cladonia rangiferina) are fruticose lichens, familiar to many people.  Interestingly, the Latin genus for reindeer is Rangifer.
The “green fungus” on a tree is usually a foliose or crustose lichen, often the genus Flavoparmelia.  Again, harmless to the tree, although it’s been argued only an ailing tree grows bark slow enough to accommodate lichens.
The leafier lichen forms are often indicators of good air quality.  These lichens decline or die when air becomes polluted with components such as sulfur or ozone.  However, some of the crustose lichens may actually fare better in these environments.
Lichens are highly vulnerable to dry conditions, as they cannot control water loss.  They will “come alive” and “go dormant” depending on moisture conditions.  Pale, brittle lichen usually suggests a dormant state.   Lichens with pliable thalli that are dark brown or dark green suggest that they’re actively growing.
The thalloid liverworts resemble foliose lichens.  In fact, the green structures of this liverwort subgroup are also called thalli.  Some of the mosses resemble lichens, too.  However, without much practice, it’s usually pretty easy to identify a lichen as a lichen.
Lichens are one more intriguing and fascinating element of our northern forests! Have you seen any lately?

lichen

Captions for images:
1-reindeer.jpg – Fruticose “reindeer lichen”, common on northern dry sandy plains.
2-oldman.jpg – Fruticose “old man’s beard”, common in moist boreal forests.
3-foliose.jpg – Foliose lichen common on rock seeps.
4-brit.jpg – Fruticose “British soldier” lichen.
5-foliose.jpg – Foliose greenshield lichen on oak.
6-crustose.jpg – Crustose lichen growing on rock.