We at Crossroads at Big Creek have much for which to be thankful, so we are dedicating November to celebrating the wonderful environmental services from which we benefit and which we endeavor to protect. This week (and always) we are grateful for clean air.
As my mother used to say any time we thanked her, “If you are truly grateful for a gift, you will do your best to take care of it.” And we at Crossroads are truly grateful for our clean air.
Since our inception, we have worked on projects to prevent air pollution. The huge windows on the Collins Learning Center were designed not just for the view, but rather as a passive solar installation. Even on the coldest days of winter, when the sun shines, heat energy from the Sun significantly reduces our need to turn up our furnaces. In summer, long blinds block incoming heat energy.
But we have been more than passive. Over the years, we have installed four solar arrays and we offer a free charging station for electric vehicles.
Arguably, the best thing we do for air quality is to plant trees and other native plants. And do we ever! In the past two years, we have planted over 8,000 trees, shrubs and “plugs” (grasses and sedges) which will help the environment in countless ways. But how do they impact air quality?
Trees cool the forest with their shade, and they reduce temperatures as water evaporates from their leaves, a process called transpiration. Lower temperatures decrease the risk of harmful pollutants like ground level ozone that develops when temperatures soar.
Speaking of pollutants, tree leaves actually absorb chemicals such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides through their leaf surfaces. Leaves also intersect particulates – dust, ash, pollen, smoke. Have you ever looked at a leaf in summer? Dusty? Better on a leaf than in our lungs.
But the real issue is carbon dioxide. Tree leaves absorb carbon dioxide and water, and through the amazing process called photosynthesis, using the energy from the Sun, they manufacture carbohydrates (food) and release oxygen to the environment.
Then, much of the carbon absorbed by trees is sequestered. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. When carbon is stored in wood, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is reduced, which should diminish the rate of global climate change.
Eventually, the carbon sequestered in trees and wood will be released; we hope that by the time it is, scientists will have found ways to deal with it.
We will be releasing a tiny bit of sequestered carbon from some of our dead trees. Now that the nights are growing longer, Crossroads has scheduled a Campfire on the first Friday of every month. The campfires will be held at our Council Ring, which can be reached by following a luminary-lit trail from our main parking lot. These campfires are free and open to the public.
Elevated carbon dioxide levels in the air do more than warm the planet. A number of studies have indicated that carbon dioxide in the air is reducing the nutritional value of crops such as wheat and rice and it also is causing goldenrod pollen to be lower in protein. This is really important in that goldenrod is one of the few late-blooming plants visited by honeybees and native wild bees as they prepare for winter.
And that should be a concern of the Door County Beekeepers, though at their November meeting they will probably be quite cheerful. The program will be “Mead: Making, Tasting and Pairing.” The Beekeepers welcome visitors, particularly folks who are contemplating getting involved in beekeeping. The program is free and open to the public.
Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and restoration, and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages and from all backgrounds. We welcome your support! Become a member of Crossroads by mailing a contribution