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.”

Articles

He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Imgur

Every few years there's something that goes mega viral because people can't decide what it is.

There was the famous "is it blue and black, or white and gold" dress?

There was the audio recording that said either "yanny" or "Laurel."

Keep Reading Show less
Viral


Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape www.youtube.com

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Creative Commons

National Tell a Joke Day dates back to 1944 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was having a meeting with Vice-President, Henry Wallace. The two men were tired and depressed due to the stress caused by leading a country through world war.

During a lull in the meeting, Wallace said, "Frank, to cheer you up I have a joke I'd like to share."

"Let's have it, Henry," Roosevelt replied while ashing his cigarette.

"Why did the chicken cross the road?" Wallace asked. "Not sure," Roosevelt replied.

"To get to the other side," Wallace responded.

Roosevelt laughed so hard that the bourbon he was drinking sprayed out of his nose and onto the floor of the oval office.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Coal mining is on the decline, leaving many coal miners in West Virginia without jobs. The Mine Safety and Health Administration says there are about 55,000 positions, and just 13,000 of those jobs are in West Virginia. The dwindling amount of work is leaving some struggling to make a living, but the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is giving those coal miners a way to find new jobs and make a supplemental income as coal mining diminishes.

The Appalachian Beekeeping Collective trains coal miners and other low-income residents in mining communities to keep bees. Some coal miners are getting retrained to work in the tech industry, however beekeeping allows coal miners to continue to work in a job that requires a similar skill set. "The older folks want to get back to work, but mining is never going to be like it was in the '60s and '70s, and there is nothing to fall back on, no other big industries here, so all of these folks need retraining," former coal miner James Scyphers told NPR. "Beekeeping is hands-on work, like mining, and requires on-the-job training. You need a good work ethic for both."

Keep Reading Show less
Business