At this time of year, we both admire trees for the spectacularly colorful show they provide to our landscape and curse them for the constant supply of leaves they drop on our lawns. But trees add value to our lives, to our homes and to our waterways that we may not always appreciate.
According to the Arbor Day Foundation, trees in our yard may add up to 15 percent to the value of our homes, cut cooling costs by 15 to 35 percent by providing shade in summer, and cut heating costs by 10 to 20 percent by acting as a windbreak in winter. For homes over $250,000, the Arbor National Mortgage and American Forests state that 98 percent of realtors felt that mature trees have a ''strong or moderate impact'' on the ability to sell your home. They add oxygen to and remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and provide food and shelter for wildlife. They even cut down on noise and light pollution in our neighborhoods. But within the Chautauqua Watershed, those trees also provide an important job in protecting our streams, ponds and lakes.
How does a tree help keep our water clean and clear? A tree reduces soil erosion, holding back rainwater runoff and reducing sediment washing into the stormwater systems and directly into our freshwater systems. This silt not only clogs up pipes and ditches, but it carries fertilizers, chemicals and waste products with it, feeding the plants and algae which bloom in the lake every summer. The trees provide ''phytoremediation,'' removing toxins from the soil and incorporating them into their own biomass, where they safely store them and process them into less harmful forms. They also bind the soil together with their roots and their leaves reduce the force of the rain and wind on soil, protecting it from washing away. These marvels of nature also block the wind from drying the soil, making it more susceptible to washing or blowing away.
Trees add value to our lives, to our homes and to our waterways.
Photo by Deb Naybor
Trees acts as guardians to our watershed. They reduce the flow of material into the streams and lakes by slowing water movement, which prevents damage to property, such as the expense problem of washed out roadways. Just ONE Colorado blue spruce can intercept more than 1,000 gallons of water when fully grown. This allows water to be slowly returned to its natural aquifer, where it percolates through layers of dirt and gravel, cleaning it further. It is estimated that forests in the USA provide natural filtration and water storage that processes two-thirds of our nation's water supply.
Trees are the first line of defense in reducing flooding and providing stormwater protection. Planting deciduous trees and shrubs in the fall and evergreens in the spring in your yard will help to reduce the buildup of plant life in the lake, protect shoreline and streams from erosion and build your own mini filtration plant right in your own backyard. And just think of the fun the kids will have jumping in your piles of leaves! Maybe they'll even help rake them back up.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy presently has its 2011-12 membership drive under way and is seeking donations to conserve the Wells Bay Lakeshore. To support these efforts or for more information on CWC's healthy landscaping for healthy waters efforts, visit our website at www.chautauquawatershed.org, or call 664-2166.