Creating & Tending Backyard Woods
7 January 2009
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
Do you have some backyard woods or a few acres you would like to be a natural area? While you may enjoy your woods for the privacy it offers or knowing that it gives a home to some wildlife, it can be much more. You can influence what happens in your natural area by better understanding what you have, what you want and available tools to help you accomplish your goals. For example, did you know that by selecting certain trees for firewood, you can improve wildlife habitat, improve the scenic value, and regenerate young trees, all at the same time?
The U.S. population has grown increasingly urban each decade, from 28 percent in 1910 to 80 percent in 2000. In the Chesapeake watershed alone, residential development is predicted to consume 800,000 acres between 2003 and 2030, nearly 90 percent of it replacing farmland. As urban communities grow larger and faster than ever before, natural resource management in these areas becomes crucial for achieving sustainable development and maintaining and enhancing the quality of life and the environment.
Trees provide ecological services that include 1) reduced air pollution, 2) storm-water control, 3) carbon storage, 4) improved water quality, and 5) reduced energy consumption.
Trees reduce air pollution by trapping particulate matter in their leafy canopies and by absorbing noxious pollution into their leaves. The particulate matter is eventually washed away with rain. Absorbed pollutants are incorporated into the soil after leaf fall where they are broken down by microbes. These actions reduce human health problems related to air pollution. Tree canopies also intercept large amounts of rain, reducing the amount of runoff that is discharged into streams and rivers and extending the time that a watershed has to absorb rainfall. This reduces flooding and erosion. As trees grow they accumulate biomass that absorbs carbon and nutrients, locking them into a biological cycle that keeps them out of the atmosphere and hydrosphere. The storage of carbon reduces the greenhouse effect that is linked to problems of global climate change. Absorbed nutrients stay out of water bodies where they would otherwise harm fish and other aquatic species.
In summer, trees ameliorate climate by transpiring water from their leaves, which has a cooling effect on the atmosphere. At night, when the earth radiates heat back into space, temperatures often drop to the cooling or dew point, when water vapor, some of which is produced by trees during the daytime, condenses. This releases latent heat back into the atmosphere. When groups of trees intercept sunlight and use it for photosynthesis, they shade roads, buildings, and other structures, and they help reduce energy consumption.
Benefits to society are harder to quantify, but that does not mean they are less important than the ecological services that trees provide. Societal benefits include increased job satisfaction, faster recovery time for hospital patients, and improved child development. For example, hospital patients who have a view of trees out of their window recovered more quickly than patients who did not. Similarly, employees who could look out their office windows and see trees and nature were happier at work. Both of these have dollar values, like lower health-care costs and increased worker productivity, but it is harder to assign an exact dollar amount to them. Properly placed and maintained trees have even been shown to reduce crime and enhance cognitive development in children.
Many outdoor recreation activities, such as picnicking, hiking, or even just sitting on a back porch are more enjoyable in and around trees. Trees provide homes and are an important component of habitat for many wildlife species. Observing wildlife in community nature parks is one of the fastest growing forms of outdoor recreation in the United States.
The aesthetic value of landscape trees can be measured by determining how property values increase for yards that have trees in them. Property values can increase as much as 20 percent when trees are present on the land. The monetary value of an individual tree can be determined by an experienced appraiser. Tree appraisal considers a variety of factors such as the species, size, condition of the tree, and its location in a landscape. Such a monetary appraisal is often made when a court of law must determine how much money a homeowner is owed if someone vandalizes a tree on his or her property. Large trees can increase property value up to 20 percent. Taking care of such trees is critical to realizing their values.
Three workshops are being offered to equip owners of 1-10 acres to learn how to manage existing natural areas and or create new natural areas. The workshops will use the newly published manual, The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home. This full-color 139-page manual helps you to identify your goals for your land, and walks you through the steps to achieve them. Whether you are interested in converting lawn to forest, creating wildlife habitat, or providing a useful outdoor space for your family, this book is for you.
The workshops are being offered in several locations and in two formats, full-day or two half days, for your convenience. Please call the phone number associated with each location to register or seek more information.
|* Rappahannock Co. (Library)
|Feb. 18, 1:00 – 4:00 PM and Feb. 25, 1:00 – 4:00 PM|
|* Greene Co. (High School)
|Feb. 25, 6:30 – 9:00 PM and March 4, 6:30 – 9:00 PM|
|Nelson Co. (Nelson Center)
|March 7, 9:00 – 3:00|
|* Fluvanna Co. (Community Center)
|March 26, 2:00 – 4:30 PM and April 2, 2:00 – 4:30|
|Albemarle Co. (Extension Office)
|March 21, 9:00 – 3:00|
*These workshops are 2 sessions, separated by a week for homework completion.
The workshops will take participants through the manual to demonstrate how to use it and provide ideas on how to share it with others. A Resource CD will also be available. Attendance is limited and pre-registration is required. To register, contact the respective Virginia Cooperative Extension office in the host county.
For more information about this and other landscape topics contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.