Sustainable Christmas Trees

North America

Winter is in full swing and the Holiday Season is officially here! This week SCI Foundation wanted to highlight the interesting ways Christmas trees can contribute to conservation.

The United States currently grows around 350 million Christmas trees. Most trees are grown on what is called a monoculture.  Monoculture farms are areas where only one type of plant is grown, which can be detrimental to biodiversity. However, tree farms keep the land from being converted to other development uses. Trees stabilize soil, increase water quality, and provide habitat for some species of wildlife. Also, all those trees sequester carbon, making them climate-friendly.

There are many ways to recycle your used Christmas tree. Most areas have curb-side pickup where trees are turned into mulch or firewood. Other places have been using recycled trees to aid with conservation measures.

Since 1986, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources has collected recycled Christmas trees for erosion barriers. The state of Louisiana is the fastest eroding piece of land on the planet, losing 25 to 35 square miles of coastline each year. Using a helicopter, nearly 1.5 million trees have been deposited as tree fences. This erosion control method has created 8 miles of fence that has restored 250 to 300 acres of wetlands. A similar program exists in areas battered by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, where hundreds of Christmas trees are thrown onto beaches to rebuild sand dunes.

xmas tree
Photo by David Swanson. Christmas trees on Midway Beach, NJ

Recycled Christmas trees are also used to restore wildlife habitat. In Portland, Trout Unlimited collects donated trees to create salmon habitat on the Necanicum River. The trees provide protection from predators and food sources for juvenile Coho salmon. Christmas trees from Easton, Maryland are transported to Poplar Island, where they become nesting sites for the island’s 200 species of birds.

Dozens of other restoration programs like these exist across the country, putting Christmas trees to good use for conservation.

Happy Holidays from SCI Foundation!

Twice a week, SCI Foundation informs readers about conservation initiatives happening worldwide and updates them on SCI Foundation’s news, projects and events. Tuesdays are dedicated to an Issue of the Week and Thursday’s Weekly Updates will provide an inside look into research and our other science-based conservation efforts. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more SCI Foundation news.

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