National Geographic defines an ecosystem as a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscapes, work together to form a bubble of life.
The state of California is one huge ecosystem.
As ecosystems go, California is the most ecologically diverse state in the nation and is comprised of an interesting and unique geography, filled with biological diversity, and has a climate that is vastly different depending on the region.
We experience droughts and more days with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, wildfires that are no longer seasonal, and as sea levels rise, the threat to the 840 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline poses a major flood risk to the more than 39 million residents who inhabit the state’s coastal communities.
As the global climate continues to warm, natural disasters are projected to increase with frequency and intensity, threatening ecosystems.
The effort to reverse the effects of millions of residents’ carbon footprints – the sum of all emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) which were induced by their activities in a given time frame – can be aided through modifying their surroundings by adding trees, shrubs, and other native plants.
The long standing symbiotic relationship between humans and plants is even more important now. Plants improve our health by regulating humidity in the atmosphere and eliminating harmful toxins from the air we breathe; such as the carbon dioxide we release when we exhale. Conversely, plants absorb the exhaled carbon dioxide and release oxygen for us to inhale (breathe).
On a much larger scale, greenery such as trees, plants, native plant-life, and vegetation provide environmental benefits in the following ways:
- Improve air quality:
- Greenery filters pollutants and dust from the air we breathe.
- Water quality protection:
- Reduction of polluted runoff into our water supply, lakes, and streams.
- Reduced heat build-up:
- Areas shaded by trees can reduce on-site heat buildup and increase night time cool down, resulting in a natural resource conservation by modifying temperature and reducing the amount of fossil fuels (natural gas) required for heating and cooling.
- Reduction of soil erosion:
- Dense cover crops and native grass plants help to control soil erosion and some native grasses require less maintenance (e.g., watering) there by helping to conserve valuable resources like water.
- Cooling of urban hot spots with green roofs:
- Green roofs – roofs totally or partially covered with vegetation (greenery), are a space saving alternative to adding green-space to urban areas. Evidence exists that green roofs reduce the heat island effect in urban areas and save energy.
Beyond adding natural beauty to surroundings or increasing the value of a residential or commercial property; the benefits of trees, grasses, and plants are valuable not only to our present but to our future.
You can choose to take the do it yourself route; or hire a professional to design an environmentally friendly green-space for your home or business. Check out the Consumer’s Guide to Hiring a Landscape Architect published by the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Landscape Architects Technical Committee in conjunction with the California Architects Board.