Dave Carr and Anne Jane Grey have been EcoStewards with NMRWA since 2007. You will often find Dave pulling invasives along trails in Frick Park, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot them both while they are in the stream doing their monthly flow monitoring.
1. Tell me how you first got involved with flow monitoring and Urban EcoStewards?
Dave: I became an Urban EcoSteward in the fall of 2007. I was looking to volunteer and what better than an activity that would get me out in one of our great regional parks? In 2014, I teamed up with Steve Bucklin and we started streamflow monitoring once a month. In 2017, Anne Jane took Steve’s place and we have been doing it ever since.
2. What’s your first memory of the Nine Mile Run Stream?
Dave: Hmm, I have a pre-restoration memory of a marshy baseball field but that probably isn’t what you had in mind. I don’t have a clear first memory of the restored stream.
Anne Jane: Like Dave I can’t remember when I first really noticed Nine Mile Run but I am guessing it was after we became EcoStewards. At that point I began to feel ownership of the stream.
3. What do you wish other people knew about restoration or monitoring?
Anne Jane: Even though monitoring is a small job, I like that we are regularly adding data about Nine Mile Run. Plus, it forces me to get near the water at least once a month. Dave and I also take a walk near the stream when we are done. Because of this, we were some of the first people to see the damage from the big storms last month and relayed that information to Brenda. So not only are we monitoring stream flow, but we also note monthly changes.
4. What’s it like to be an Urban EcoSteward?
Dave: Being an Urban EcoSteward gives me a chance to get out into Frick. Also, I really enjoy being an ambassador for the park and helping to raise awareness concerning the restoration and how special it is. If I am working near a trail people will sometimes stop to ask what I am doing, or to thank me for my efforts, or just to chat. For an introvert like me, this easy socializing is a nice thing.
5. When was the last time that you volunteered? How did it make you feel?
Dave: I worked in Frick today, (8/20/19), removing invasive mugwort. It made me feel…hot…and dirty…and relaxed.
Anne Jane: We did our August stream monitoring today (8/21/19). As always, no matter how tired or reluctant I feel, I am always happy when we start walking down the trail to the monitoring site – I notice the flowers, the trees, the birds – just being in the park helps my mood.
6. What keeps you engaged?
Dave: For most of us altruism can only sustain our efforts for so long. If you don’t truly enjoy what you are doing, you will soon move to some other activity. Since I have been at this for almost 12 years you can assume that I enjoy it. How could I not? I get to appreciate the wildlife in a different way than when walking or running through it and I often text Anne Jane a photo of my latest sighting of a snake, caterpillar, beaver signs, animal scat, etc.
Anne Jane: Again, feeling like I make a small contribution to the knowledge about Nine Mile Run and my hope that it will prove useful is my main motivation to keep monitoring the stream. I also like helping a small nonprofit like Nine Mile Run – for its size I think it makes a big impact. It is easy to get to know the staff and everyone is so appreciative.
You may have heard by now that the Amazon rain forest has been burning this summer. The internet quickly filled with quotes about the Amazon being the lungs of the earth, providing the earth with 20% of its oxygen. This article by PBS Newshour does a good job of explaining why oxygen production and loss is not a primary concern when addressing the Amazon fires. In short, we have a huge reserve of breathable oxygen which is barely impacted by the oxygen output of plant matter. The most significant threats posed by Amazon fires are much more significant and dire: regionally the loss of biodiversity, and globally the destruction of massive carbon sinks.
Trees, and more broadly forest ecosystems provide countless ecosystem services, but the most notable are carbon sequestration, natural habitat, oxygen production, and water management. In healthy forest ecosystems trees ‘sink’ carbon, meaning they absorb more than they produce. The total of carbon processed during photosynthesis is more than the amount released through fires and decomposition. Carbon can be stored more permanently in wood products (think wooden houses, furniture, and more), but also in the soil, and the biomass of the forest itself (plants and animals). Healthy forests can have forest fires, even significant ones, and still, sequester or sink more carbon than they release. The problem in the Amazon, and other forests, however, is that fires reduce the capacity for carbon storage. When a large tree burns, a certain amount of carbon is released, but the tree also becomes incapable of photosynthesis and stops sequestering carbon. In our National and State forests, trees reemerge naturally or are replanted, giving the land a chance to store carbon again. In the Amazon, these burned areas are likely to be replaced with pasture or cropland, significantly reducing their capacity to sequester carbon. Even in areas where trees are replanted, young, immature trees sequester much less carbon than large trees. Using the PA treemap we can see that a 20-inch London planetree (Platanus acerifolia) sequesters 630 pounds of carbon per year and has sequestered 1900 pounds over its lifespan. A 40-inch London planetree, however, sequesters 1400 pounds per year and has sequestered 11,350 pounds in its lifespan. In short, the 40-inch tree sequesters almost as much in one year, as the 20-inch tree sequestered in its life to that point. For greater perspective, the trees we typically plant are 2 inches in diameter and sequester less than 20 pounds of carbon in their first few years.
If you repeat that millions of times over, replacing large trees with seedlings, or in the case of the amazon with no trees at all, huge amounts of carbon go un-stored. This is the opposite of the math in a recent study which showed that planting millions of trees could be a long-term solution to climate change. By replacing unplanted and unused areas with trees we can create long-term carbon sinks in more areas. Of course, the study didn’t account for the loss of the Amazon rain forest, and like all tree planting efforts it will take years, and millions of dollars in maintenance to bring enough trees to maturity to begin to see impacts. It is still most beneficial to preserve the remaining large trees we have, but we can always increase planting efforts.