Photo: Planting a native tree and practicing proper tree care are things every family can do to observe Arbor Day. – Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.
What’s a little dirt, a shovel and a small native tree between friends or family?
It could be Arbor Day, tree-planting time in your area, or you could live in one of many states with a tree restoration program.
States like Maryland and Pennsylvania have goals for riparian forest buffer plantings. And, in Missouri as well as other states, planting native trees and shrubs is part of the continuing efforts to maintain the state’s forests.
Pennsylvania has a goal of planting 95,000 acres of forest buffers along waterways throughout the state by the year 2025. In 2013, the commonwealth had 54,843 acres of riparian forest buffers with the federal Chesapeake Bay Program. The program hopes to add many, many more acres of plantings in the next six years.
Riparian forest buffers decrease flooding caused when rain cannot soak into the soak fast enough. Tree leaves help intercept water while root systems keep pores of soil open, increasing the water-holding capacity of the soil. The buffers also slow the speed of water running off the land, and allow it to spread out along floodplains.
Because plants dry soil as they transpire water, which is the process of water moving through a plant and evaporating from stems, leaves and flowers, their value increases.
In Maryland, the Tree-Mendous Maryland program of the state Forest Service, remains a popular for citizens to restore tree cover on public lands and community open spaces. With permission from land owners, volunteers plant trees at schools, in state and community parks, local open spaces, or facing streets.
The Backyard Buffers program allows landowners to reserve large bundles of native oaks, dogwood and redbud seedlings for planting. When the trees are planted along waterways, they improve water quality by absorbing excess nutrients, lower peak water temperatures, reduce sediment and stabilize waterways.
In Missouri, the George O. White State Forest Nursery offers residents a variety of low-cost native tree and shrub seedlings for reforestation, windbreaks, erosion control and wildlife food and cover. The Nursery accepts orders for trees from Nov. 1 to April 15 every year.
Forests in Missouri cover about one-third of the state, providing outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat as well as providing health benefits by contributing to physical well-being for those who spend time in the woods.
Planted a near homes, trees conserve energy and can reduce energy bills. They keep the songbirds near, help clean rivers and streams and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while beautifying the landscape
Larger-scale tree planting projects, such as the massive efforts to restore red spruce to the Southern Appalachian Mountains, are cooperative efforts
Organizations working together for the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative, include a coalition of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the Southern Highlands Reserve and the U.S. Forest Service
Once commonly seen in the Appalachians, the tree nearly disappeared a century ago after an intense wildfire eliminated stands of the tree and changed the soil composition which limited the tree’s ability to reestablish itself
The long-term effort for restoration began with Appalachian Forest Experiment Station, established in 1921. Read more about current efforts here.
If you need more good reasons to plant a tree this spring, check with the National Arbor Day Foundation.
Resources: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Department of Conservation, USFWS.