In what may be one of the largest tree conservation efforts in recent history, a team of environmental scientists from nine botanic gardens, arboretums, and environmental conservation agencies, as well as international collaborators in the Dominican Republic and Belize, is working to preserve and increase the genetic diversity of the country’s living tree collections. Launched in October 2016, the ambitious, three-year project is a form of insurance for endangered species.
Maintain the genetic diversity
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Sinkhole cycad (Zamia decumbens) grows at the bottom of a sinkhole in Belize.[/caption]
“Zoos often have to exchange animals to maintain good genetic diversity across the population. Gardens are just starting to realize they have to manage plant collections in the same way,” says Patrick Griffith, the executive director of the Montgomery Botanical Center in Coral Gables, Florida, who is leading the effort. “We want to know what is the right number of plants to grow in botanic gardens if you want to maintain the genetic diversity of these plant populations.
With support from a $439,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, researchers are collecting and analyzing DNA samples of endangered or threatened woody plants across a broad phylogenetic spectrum, including oaks, magnolias, palms, cycads, and Hawaiian alula (Brighamia insignis).
One of the joys of travel, even of armchair travel, is the discovery of euphonious place-names. I’ve driven through both Humptulips, on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and Quonochontaug, in Rhode Island, and in both cases, these names, which I find flow off the tongue, flow in another way, too. Each describes the place’s hydrological characteristics.
Humptulips, in the tongue of the Chehalis Tribe, tells that it is “hard to pole” a canoe through the river, which follows a convoluted course that includes fast, narrow torrents. Quonochontaug (Narragansett for “at the long pond”) is along a string of broad, placid coastal lagoons.
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The guide that indigenous names can provide to landscape qualities and to human interactions with landscape may be followed any-where such names have not been erased by the conquest of colonialism. This is no less true in Britain, where four universities—Leicester, Southampton, Nottingham, and Wales—have joined forces under a grant from the Leverhulme Trust for a two-year study of place-names called “Flood and Flow.”
In Britain, an extra dimension to the record of place-names provides a set of clues to how particular land-scapes might respond to global warming in the near future. In the period between 700 and 1000 AD, temperatures in the British Isles rose rapidly after a cold phase that began in 400 AD.
With its chain of lakes and acres of open space, Minneapolis has a nationally lauded park system. But as of 2015, its smaller neighborhood parks faced a capital investment backlog of more than $100 million, a shortfall that translated to aging structures, walkways full of potholes, and soccer fields that had been ground into mud.
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A closed tennis court in Folwell Park.[/caption]
Vina Kay, the executive director of the Minnesota-based advocacy organization Voices for Racial Justice, says one can see an ugly pattern in which parks are in the worst shape. “If you were to go on a visual tour, you would see that some parks are more run-down than others and that those parks are most often in low-income communities of color,” Kay says. In response, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board recently developed what its members hope is a more equitable system of park priorities.
Nine years after Prevention magazine named Oklahoma City the least walkable city in the United States, the city’s downtown core has been wholly remade, with a redesign of its streetscapes and two major park projects completed or in the works.
Today, the downtown has a Walk Score of 74, rivaling Seattle and Washington, D.C. “It’s incredible, the amount of private businesses and urban housing that’s come in. It’s a vibrant, bustling downtown, which is amazing,” says Scott Howard, ASLA, one of two principals at Howard-Fairbairn Site Design. The firm has worked alongside larger international firms to help guide the transformation.
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The city planted more than 2,500 street trees downtown.[/caption]
Oklahoma City’s transformation
Oklahoma City’s transformation is unusual for how swiftly it has been realized. In the past five years, an elevated highway has been replaced by a street-level boulevard, a 70-acre central park has been planned, and streets in the central business district—eight linear miles in total —have been rebuilt, from building face to building face, with a focus on pedestrians, bicyclists, and improved traffic flow. at Howard-Fairbairn Site Design. The firm has worked alongside larger international firms to help guide the transformation.