How Fire-Resistant Trees Might Save Our Landscapes from Climate Change

“Strategically planting cypress trees can save our landscapes from forest fires caused by climate change.” #globalgoals

This fall, the United Nations is preparing to launch its 17 Sustainable Development Goals—an extraordinary action plan to solve the world’s biggest problems by 2030. Over the coming months, we’ll be connecting with The Local Globalists: 17 nonprofit founders, entrepreneurs, and social innovators who are working every day, wherever they are, to turn one of the U.N.’s #globalgoals into reality.

Goal 15: Protect terrestrial ecosystems and forests.

In 2012, Spain experienced the worst season of forest fires in several decades, with tens of thousands of acres going up in flames.

Amidst all the destruction, one particular fire in the Andilla region, which burned almost 50,000 acres, presented a curious opportunity for José Moya and his brother Bernabé, both researchers at the University of Valencia’s Department of Monumental Trees.

While other native tree species like oaks, junipers, and pines were decimated by the fire, a clump of 946 Cupressus sempervirens, or Mediterranean cypress trees, stood tall amidst the destruction, more than 98 percent of them left completely unscathed.

The plot was part of the CypFire project, a European Union-funded initiative that has studied how different tree species respond to frosts, droughts, and production of wood and pollen, among other things, for several decades. Though both Moyas had been studying the potential fire-resistant qualities of this species before 2012, the unhappy accident spurred further research that has major implications for how we deal with forest fires in the age of climate change.

“The water content of the cypress is higher than the other Mediterranean species, and it stays constant and permanent throughout the year. The tree also has lower ignitability compared to other species,” José Moya says. “It represents an economic and ecological solution to save the landscape of the Mediterranean and potentially elsewhere.”

As in all regions with a dry-summer, Mediterranean climate—areas that include Southern California; Santiago, Chile; and the Western Cape of South Africa, as well as Spain—these ecosystems are somewhat adapted to naturally occurring forest fires. However, with as many as 90 percent of forest fires in the United States caused by humans and forest vulnerability worsening as a result of climate change, Moya says the need to mitigate the destruction caused by massive fires like the one in 2012 is clear.

The Moyas, along with other researchers, recently published research in the Journal of Environmental Management which further proves that the Mediterranean cypress’ morphological, functional, and ecological traits make it an apt choice for a barrier system in fire-prone areas.

“We envision the trees being planted in strategic areas around population centers, around industrial areas, in the bottom of valleys and at other strategic points in landscapes in coordination with fire officials of a given area to help mitigate the intensity of forest fires,” Moya says.

While more experimental plots are being planted in Spain, Moya says it’s necessary to confirm the adaptability and suitability of the species before planting the trees on a wide scale in a non-native environment such as California. He points out, however, that a major advantage of the species is that it lends itself to a wide application of environments.

“The cypress as a species has a lot of plasticity with respect to the soil and with respect to the altitude,” he says. “They can grow from sea level to more than 2,000 meters high, and they are adapted to different climates and soils including sandy, rocky, and water-logged.”

Researchers are often far removed from advocacy, but Moya sees a direct link between the role of research and improving the land management of forests to decrease man-made fires.

“Normally the situation of the forest fires is due to lack of info available to the public, lack of support of research, lack of plans of the sustainable management of the forest—this is the principal crisis of the situation of the vulnerability of the forest and vegetation, which will get worse due to climate change,” Moya says. “Through research, we hope to get good information to all kinds of people—but especially those who go to the forest on the weekend for fun.”

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

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Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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