Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lauderdale cemetery visitor has bird watchers buzzing

South American bird’s cemetery sighting has watchers flying in
Birdwatchers have been flocking to Fort Lauderdale's Evergreen Cemetery to catch site of a
variegated flycatcher that's only been seen five previous times in the United States and Canada.
The South American bird was spotted on Saturday and has attracted several hundred people
from across the country. (Carline Jean / Sun Sentinel)
By Larry Barszewski, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
The city's latest tourist hot spot is a cemetery.
Birders have been flocking to Evergreen Cemetery since Saturday, when a South American bird only seen five previous times in the United States and Canada was spotted, sending online message boards a-twitter.
The variegated flycatcher has attracted several hundred people from across the country, who are delighted it's still hanging around the graveyard at the end of Southeast 13th Street east of Federal Highway. The bird hasn't been camera shy and is providing nice views for visitors.
But its notoriety stems more from its scarcity than its beauty.
"It doesn't look spectacular, but just think of how far this bird flew from South America," said Jacque Woodward, who drove a fair distance herself from near Lake Wales to see the bird on Tuesday.
Lucie Bruce and Nick Cooney flew in from Texas and spent parts of Monday and Tuesday at the cemetery, thankful the bird hadn't been eaten by a hawk or scared away, as can often happen.
"That's why, when it's on the Internet, you try to come out as fast as you can," said Bruce, who is in the top-50 of North American birders, with the variegated flycatcher making No. 824 on her list.
The flycatcher is not a very colorful bird. It's brown on the back, with streaks in front on its pale-yellow belly, tail-feathers with reddish-brown edges and it looks as if it's wearing a mask.
"It's just about the rarity," Bruce said. The bird is far astray from its typical migratory route that seldom takes it out of South America.
"It's lost and it's just making a living," said Billi Wagner, who came from Vero Beach to see it.
It's not the first time the cemetery has been host to a rare bird sighting.
The Broward-based South Florida Audubon Society says the cemetery is a "magnet for migrating birds" and has previously been visited by the very rare rufous and Allen's hummingbirds and the sulphur-bellied flycatcher.
The society's Russ Titus was leading a field trip to some of the city's best bird-watching areas when he saw the variegated flycatcher emerge.
"The bird popped out of a fig tree and was eating berries," Titus said. "It's really distinctive" and took just a few minutes to identify, he said.
Titus is hoping the bird likes the cemetery and stays a while. One spotted in Toronto in 1993 stayed a month, he said, while another in Jacksonville in 2013 was gone in less than an hour.
"We have already put the sighting on our website, so bird watchers everywhere know they don't have to go to South America to see that bird," said Nicki Grossman of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Hopefully, it'll find a reason to stay."
Variegated flycatcher
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Latin name: Empidonomus varius
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Height: About 7 inches tall
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Territory: Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, sometimes north to Trinidad
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>U.S. and Canada sightings: Maine (1977), Tennessee (1984), Toronto (1993), Washington (2008), Jacksonville (2013)
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Habitat: Subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, heavily degraded former forests
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Diet: Insects, berries, fruit; will catch insects in flight then perch to eat
Sources:; American Birding Association
Photo: Carline Jean, Sun Sentinel
Credit:  City of Fort Lauderdale Environmental Services and Regulatory Affairs Inspector Mike Pafford first reported news of the bird.
The City submitted Mike’s report to the Sun-Sentinel.

If You Want to Improve Your Memory, Try Climbing a Tree

Eric Dodds @doddsef                     July 31, 2015
A new study says tree climbing is good for your mind
Turns out, the secret to remembering where you left your car keys may not lie with the tried-and-true method of retracing your steps or inside a prescription pill bottle. According to researchers from the University of North Florida, climbing a tree or balancing on a beam can dramatically improve cognitive skills, including memory.
Those two exercises are examples of proprioceptively dynamic activities. According to the The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, proprioception is “the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself.” The dynamic part is added when you couple that effort with another element like route-planning or locomotion.
According to a press release from UNF, the results demonstrated remarkable cognitive gains: “After two hours, participants were tested again, and researchers found that their working memory capacity had increased by 50 percent, a dramatic improvement.”
For those who don’t have easy access to a forest or balance beam, now might be the perfect time to take up parkour. Don’t worry, it’s still totally way cool.
(There is a video at the end of the article on improving your memory)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

There's still time to share your voice!

City of Fort Lauderdale
Parks & Recreation
1350 W. Broward Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
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The (Pretty Much Totally) Complete Health Case for Urban Nature (Part 2 of 2)

An annotated, chart-filled look at the scientific evidence.
m01229 / Flickr
I’m not a doctor, but I do sit near one in The Atlantic’s New York office. So you can trust me to know that MD-in-residence James Hamblin is on to something when he writes in the magazine’s October issue about the rising appreciation among physicians for the health benefits of parks and green space. Hamblin writes of “a small but growing group of health-care professionals who are essentially medicalizing nature”:
At his office in Washington, D.C., Robert Zarr, a pediatrician, writes prescriptions for parks. He pulls out a prescription pad and scribbles instructions—which park his obese or diabetic or anxious or depressed patient should visit, on which days, and for how long—just as though he were prescribing medication.
In more recent years, a lot of research has focused on how urban nature helps people … focus.
A highly cited study by Marc Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan gave some test participants a tough attention-related task that involved remembering numbers. Thus cognitively spent, some participants then took a walk through the famed Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while others walked through the downtown area. When the participants returned to the lab and took the test again, the refreshed nature group scored significantly higher, the researchers reported in a 2008 issue of Psychological Science.
Other work is mixed on just how ensconced in leaves you need to be to get the cognitive boost. A study from 2012 found that the denser a park’s vegetation—meaning, less sight of the city through the trees—the better. But other work has found attention benefits from a mere 40-second micro-glimpse of a green roof, or even looking up from your screen to see a desk plant.
A walk through Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, Michigan (above), gave a boost to attention compared with a walk downtown, according to a 2008 study. (Sean Munson / Flickr)

Child attention
Even tots get a mental bump from grass and bark. In a 2009 study, kids aged 7 to 12 with diagnosed attention-deficit disorder showed better concentration after a 20-minute walk in the park, compared with children who walked downtown or in a neighborhood. “‘Doses of nature’ might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool in the tool kit for managing ADHD symptoms,” the researchers concluded in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders. More recent work extended the cognitive benefits of urban nature to children without ADHD, too.
Kids 7-12 who walked in a park showed better concentration than those who took a stroll in a more urban environment. (Journal of Attention Disorders, 2009)

Aggression and restraint
The power of nature seems capable at times of transcending particular vulnerable environments. In a 2001 study, Illinois scholars Frances Kuo and William Sullivan found reduced levels of aggression in Chicago public housing residents whose view overlooked some trees, compared with others in the same complex who looked onto an empty common area. Kuo and Sullivan report in the journal Environment and Behavior that the additional mental fatigue that comes with not having visual access to nature might play a role in the diverging outcomes.
A study by Kuo and Sullivan as well as Andrea Faber Taylor, published the following year in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, extended that research to discipline among girls in the same housing complex. Young women with tree views performed better on tests of concentration, delayed gratification, and inhibited impulsivity compared to those with barren views. “Perhaps when housing managers and city officials decide to cut budgets for landscaping in inner city areas, they deprive children of more than just an attractive view,” the researchers concluded.
Other work has found reduced levels of road rage among test participants who watched videos of a drive along roads lined with and without nature. In a 2003 study, some participants watched the car cruise along a normal asphalt highway, others saw a little bit of greenery in a garden highway, and a third group saw dense vegetation in a scenic parkway. Afterward they all tried their hand at an anagram that, unbeknownst to them, was impossible (e.g. DATGI—eyes back on the road, please!); those who’d observed the scenic drive showed less impatience, working on the puzzle for 90 more seconds before giving up.
Participants who watched a drive along a scenic parkway showed more patience when tackling an unsolvable anagram than did those with other views. (Environment and Behavior, 2003)

Post-operative recovery
If you’re in a hospital, the last thing you’re really worried about is the view. But having a window that looks onto trees has been shown to have a measurable difference in patient outcomes. In a classic study published in Science in 1984, Roger Ulrich found that gallbladder surgery patients whose hospital rooms overlooked nature had “shorter postoperative hospital stays, received fewer negative evaluative comments in nurses' notes, and took fewer potent analgesics” than those whose windows faced a brick wall.
And these days, if the medical trend noted by James Hamblin catches on, you just might be prescribed a walk in the park on your way out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The (Pretty Much Totally) Complete Health Case for Urban Nature (Part 1 of 2)

An annotated, chart-filled look at the scientific evidence.
m01229 / Flickr
I’m not a doctor, but I do sit near one in The Atlantic’s New York office. So you can trust me to know that MD-in-residence James Hamblin is on to something when he writes in the magazine’s October issue about the rising appreciation among physicians for the health benefits of parks and green space. Hamblin writes of “a small but growing group of health-care professionals who are essentially medicalizing nature”:
At his office in Washington, D.C., Robert Zarr, a pediatrician, writes prescriptions for parks. He pulls out a prescription pad and scribbles instructions—which park his obese or diabetic or anxious or depressed patient should visit, on which days, and for how long—just as though he were prescribing medication.
Seems the medical community has finally caught up with insights made by the urban landscape community 150 years ago. In 1865, Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park design fame called it “a scientific fact” that natural “is favorable to the health and vigor of men.” (And women!) Olmsted jumped the gun on the whole “fact” thing, but time and a whole bunch of modern behavioral research on the nature-health link has proved him wise.
Exactly what makes parks and trees so healthy for people remains a matter of ongoing discussion. One credible theory, pioneered by Michigan psychologist Stephen Kaplan, holds that nature restores and refreshes our brains, much like sleep, because it doesn’t require direct attention. Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson has attributed the effects to “biophilia”—essentially, that humans are more comfortable in nature because that’s where they evolved.
Here’s Wilson chatting with The Washington Post a few weeks back:
“Instinctively, without understanding what’s happening, they know that in certain wild environments, they have come home,” Wilson said.
Connecting with nature is especially important for the world’s “increasingly urbanized population,” says Wilson. To that end, CityLab has compiled a nearly complete health case for more city green space. The lit review’s purpose is to show that urban nature is (as Olmsted might say) favorable to public health and psychological well-being, and also why it’s so critical for people who live in the high-stress city to occasionally (as Wilson might say) go home again.
There’s some pretty clear evidence that walking through nature puts people in a better mood than does walking through a city setting. That’s not a huge surprise given the stressful confines of crowded sidewalks. But the findings are especially significant considering the link between urbanization and mental illness, including depression.
A 2009 study found that a 15-minute stroll through the woods led participants to have more positive emotions—and to reflect on a life problem more constructively—than their counterparts who walked in an urban setting. A 2012 study even found nature-related mood gains in major depressive cases. Research published earlier this year found that Londoners living near street trees were prescribed fewer antidepressants.
New work from Stanford’s Gregory Bratman, published this year in top journal PNAS, suggests that nature’s impact on harmful rumination might hold the key to its anti-depressive power. Participants who took a 90-minute nature walk reported having less rumination and showed decreased neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain linked with sadness and self-reflection. The findings “suggest that feasible investments in access to natural environments could yield important benefits for the ‘mental capital’ of cities and nations.”
A 90-minute nature walk, but not a city walk, led to a reported decline in rumination. (PNAS, 2015)
Happiness and well-being
On the flipside of the emotional spectrum, other work has linked proximity to urban parks with higher well-being. U.K.-based researchers surveyed about 10,000 Brits on how satisfied they were with their lives, as well as whether they had general signs of mental distress. In the journal Psychological Science, the researchers reported that having more green space nearby led to a clear spike in life satisfaction—“equivalent to 28% of the effect of being married rather than unmarried and 21% of being employed rather than unemployed.” They conclude:
Our analyses suggest that individuals are happier when living in urban areas with greater amounts of green space.
General health and mortality
Generally speaking, people who live near urban green space do an admirable job not dying. Past research has found clear associations between city nature and reduced morality for many different causes of death. A new meta-analysis reviewed a number of previous studies and found “strong evidence” linking the quantity of residential green space with all-cause mortality and “moderate evidence” linking it with perceived general health.
Another 2015 paper, this one published in Scientific Reports, put the health benefits in starker terms. After studying general health and tree density in Toronto (while controlling for other demographic factors), the researchers found that having 10 more trees on a city block improved perceived health on par with being seven years younger or $10,000 a year richer. Money may not grow on trees, but the keys to a healthier life just might.
Environmental research legend Roger Ulrich and collaborators captured the stress-relieving qualities of nature in a clever study from 1991. They gathered 120 test participants into the lab, stressed them out with clips from a work accident film called “It Didn’t Have to Happen,” then showed them videos of various environments. Some participants saw a video of a city pedestrian shopping mall, others watched urban traffic, and others looked at nature.
On four different physiological stress measures, including muscle tension, participants in the nature group recovered more quickly and completely than did those shown the urban environments. Ulrich et al conclude in the Journal of Environmental Psychology:
The findings strongly suggest that environments of importance to well-being and stress are not confined to settings having extreme or unusual properties, such as loud noise or extreme temperatures, but also include very common environments that most urbanites in developed nations encounter daily.
A nature video led to less muscle tension, among other stress traits, relative to sights of city environments. (Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1991)
Subsequent research reached similar conclusions outside the lab. A 2003 study, conducted in nine Swedish cities, found that people who visited urban green spaces more often reported less stress-related illnesses.
To be continued…

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cycling Tour concludes with Trick or Treat with the Trees at Esplanade Park October 31

Bring the family!  Lots of free stuff and fun - candy and books for the kids, trees for Fort Lauderdale residents, and cheer cyclists completing over 560 miles through Florida!  --Gene

Naperville, IL,– Florida’s trees will be in the spotlight this fall when the STIHL Tour des Trees to benefit the TREE Fund rolls out of Orlando October 25. 85 cyclists will ride 560 miles in a week to raise money for tree research and education and raise awareness of the value that mature, healthy trees bring to Florida’s communities. Since 1992 the Tour des Trees has raised more than $6.6 million to fund research and education grants and scholarships administered by the TREE Fund.
The city of Fort Lauderdale and the TREE Fund will host a Trick or Treat with the Trees event October 31 as part of the city’s Halloween celebration at Esplanade Park from 1-5 p.m.  Headlining the event is Professor Elwood Pricklethorn, who is traveling through Florida with the STIHL Tour des Trees October 25-31. The Professor (aka arborist Warren Hoselton of Toronto, Ontario) will present a kid-friendly short course in tree science at 1:30 p.m. at the park, (400 SW 2nd St., Fort Lauderdale).

The Professor’s 45-minute interactive program focuses on how trees grow, where and how to plant a tree so it will live a long life, and what kids can do to care for the trees in their world. At the end of the program the children, their families and the cyclists of the STIHL Tour des Trees will dedicate a new tree planted at the park as a legacy of the Tour’s visit to Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale will give away 120 “Florida-friendly” trees during the event, and the TREE Fund is offering a prize for the best tree-related costume for kids under 18 and adults. In addition, each child will receive a book about trees, courtesy of Bartlett Tree Experts, a STIHL Tour des Trees water bottle from the TREE Fund and a “Trees are Good” temporary tattoo from the International Society of Arboriculture. Fort Lauderdale’s Public Library also will receive a set of books for inclusion in its children’s collection.
Families are encouraged to come to the park to learn more about Florida’s unique urban forest and the people who care for it, and to take home a tree of their own. Representatives from The Davey Tree Expert Company, STIHL, the Florida Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture and Asplundh Tree Expert Co. will join the TREE Fund in offering treats for youngsters in costume at the event.
About TREE Fund
The TREE Fund is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge in urban forestry and arboriculture (the science of caring for trees in a landscape). The TREE Fund manages a portfolio of scholarships and education grants to engage and support the next generation of tree stewards, and research grants to improve the science, safety and practice of arboriculture.
With support from individual and corporate donors and major sponsors STIHL Inc., Bartlett Tree Experts , the Davey Tree Expert Company, Arborjet, Asplundh, International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), KASK, Tree Care Industry Association and Florida Chapter of ISA, TREE Fund research has contributed to:
  • Improved utility vegetation management practices 
  • Understanding of air pollution reduction and carbon sequestration by trees
  • Quantification of the benefits of urban trees
  • Improved transplant survival rates in difficult sites
  • More effective disease and pest management strategies for urban trees
TREE Fund w 552 S. Washington St., Ste. 109 w Naperville, IL 60540 w

Trees in Paved Surfaces: Structural Stability vs Rootable Soil

Posted by Shane Carpani on Oct 15, 2015
Soil structure is fundamental for the planting of trees, as well as the stability of roads, buildings, and other infrastructure. It refers to two things:
  1. the arrangement of soil particles including silt, sand, and clay that aggregate together
  2. the void pore spaces between these aggregate particles
In this article, we discuss why appropriate soil structure is critical to healthy tree establishment, and what landscape architects and other specifiers can do to ensure newly planted urban trees receive the conditions they need to thrive, so they can provide the many benefits that mature trees offer. 
Why We Need Soil Structure
Not every soil is conducive to the growth of trees and other plants, urban soils least of all. Tree growth and fertility are strongly influenced by soil structure, as it defines whether the tree will have rootable soil available and affects the movement of air, water, and other nutrients required for trees to flourish. 
Effectively the 'architecture of the soil', soil is usually the most critical element for the success or failure of urban trees. A well structured soil functions like a reservoir, enabling the tree to accept, store, and transmit water and nutrients, provide room in which roots can propagate, and allow the space required for life and the necessary biochemical exchanges for growth. 
Trees & Compacted Soil
Too often, trees are planted in cramped planting pits and poor subsoil, resulting in retarded growth, with roots tending to colonize the area immediately underneath paved surfaces, leading to structural pavement damage. 
Root colonization immediately underneath the paving stone roadway causing pavement damage 

There are different types of roots associated with tree establishment. Anchor roots function as a structural element to the tree and hold the tree in place in the soil. 
Fibrous roots (or feeder roots) are roots that intake nutrients, and typically grow in the top 6" of the soil. They can be directed lower to avoid damage to paved surfaces, if appropriate irrigation and aeration are ensuring the required nutrients are reaching lower levels. This "feeder zone" can extend between two and seven times the diameter of the canopy drip line. 
The feeder zone of any tree must be protected from compaction in order to ensure root establishment. 

"Resistance to root penetration due to soil compaction will affect
root establishment and the ultimate health of the tree"
Tree roots are opportunistic and seek out favorable growing conditions. Moisture and air trapped between impermeable pavements and compacted soil attracts nutrient-starved roots to grow into those areas. The resulting colonization of those roots causes subsequent pavement heave and infrastructure damage. 
These trees died prematurely due to unavailable rooting volume caused by soil compaction 

So how can urban trees be adequately provided for in their city settings, without compromising or damaging the structural integrity of paved surfaces? The answer is structural soil cells
How Soil Cells Work
As we discussed in last week's article, urban soil rarely provides the favorable environment trees need to grow and flourish. Hard compaction, lack of aeration, poor drainage, low nutrient levels, and the existence of pollutants in soil stunt root growth and make it nearly impossible for urban trees to thrive. Landscape architects, arborists, engineers, and other specifiers have the availability of strong soil support systems that, while conducive to root growth, also offer adequate support for roads and sidewalks. 

The concept behind soil cells was first developed by GreenBlue in 1992, when our UK branch installed the first tree pit using soil cells to provide uncompacted soil volume for root growth underneath a paved surround. 
Suitable for parking lots and sidewalks, soil cells prevent the topsoil in tree pits from becoming compacted by the pressure of surrounding hardscapes, amongst other things. They allow trees in urban settings to have large, healthy root systems, thriving in quality uncompacted soil.  
These modular units are assembled into a skeletal framework (or matrix) with over 90% void space to provide large volumes of soil within the tree pit for the healthy growth of roots - all while also supporting pavement loads. 

Designed to highly advanced engineering specifications in order to support heavy vertical and lateral loads, StrataCells bring tree root systems closer to the pavement surface. Engineers have calculated that with only 12" (300mm) of granular pavement depth, a StrataCell matrix can support maximum traffic loads, while providing over 94% of void space for root growth. 
With both vertical and lateral forces considered in the engineering make-up of tree pits, soil cell modules lock together, forming a monolithic framework with excellent modular strength. Highly secure connectors allow for modules to click together fast and simply, while it's enormous growth zone allows for plenteous root establishment. 
Structural Integrity of Soil Cells
GreenBlue soil cells are crush tested during manufacturing as part of our rigorous quality control standards. Whilst FEA (Finite Element Analysis) computer load testing was also conducted during the initial design stages to project the loading capacity laterally and vertically, physical laboratory tests were then used to clarify the cells actual loading capabilities. 

This physical load testing is part of an ongoing development and research program, and is the only true measure of structural integrity. GreenBlue soil cells are made using 100% recycled polypropylene, and have the highest structural integrity of any large soil cell. 
Fatigue Testing
As manufacturer of the world’s strongest soil cell, GreenBlue has subjected our soil cells to extraordinary laboratory tests, including fatigue testing. In one test, a university applied a load of 8.6 tonnes to a StrataCell® tower 10,000 times. The tower was then crushed to measure whether the ultimate load had been diminished by the cyclic loading. The high strength modules had lost no strength, verifying the design of this remarkable system. 

In closing, our streets do not have to be a battle between trees and pavement. They can coexist together, if specifiers and professionals consider the site conditions and provide an appropriate soil structure to suit both tree planting and infrastructure construction. 
Please consider sharing this article, and download our free eBook on the Soil Requirements of Urban Trees

Written by Shane Carpani
Shane Carpani is the Creative Director and Manager of Content Strategy at GreenBlue Infrastructure Solutions. Connect with Shane on LinkedIn or follow @ThinkGreenBlue on Twitter.