Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Episode 644 (12-19-22): From Roots to Branches, Trees and Water Interact

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (5:11).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information

Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 12-16-22.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the weeks of December 19 and December 26, 2022.  This episode is the last in a series this year of episodes related to trees and shrubs.

MUSIC – ~16 sec – instrumental.

That’s part of “Fair Meadows and Goodly Tall Trees,” by Timothy Seaman, of Williamsburg, Virginia, on his 2006 album, “Jamestown: On the Edge of a Vast Continent.”  Across that vast continent, from the Chesapeake Bay to forested western states, people recognize that “goodly tall trees,” as well as shorter trees and shrubs—in woods, parks, yards, and built areas—affect water resources in many important ways.  Have a listen to the music for about 30 more seconds and see if you can think of some of those ways.

MUSIC  - ~30 sec – instrumental.

If you thought of tree impacts on water supplies, aquatic habitat, or the physical or chemical quality of water, you’re right!  Such impacts frequently provide benefits to humans, and those benefits are often called “ecosystem services.”  Here are five examples of water-related services that trees provide to human societies.

1.  Trees can slow or reduce stormwater runoff by intercepting precipitation, by transpiration (that is, the evaporation of water from leaves), and by increasing infiltration of water into the ground.

2.  Trees can improve water quality through reducing sediment inputs to waterways, when they slow runoff speed so that more sediment settles out, and when they hold soil in place at streamsides and in uplands.

3.  Trees can also improve water quality through uptake of plant nutrients that otherwise would remain in soil or water; excessive nutrients can degrade aquatic ecosystems and impair groundwater quality.

4.  Trees living on shorelines, and woody debris in waterways, provide food, habitat, and temperature regulation for aquatic ecosystems.

And 5.  Trees can help reduce climate changes, with their many water-related aspects, through the uptake of carbon dioxide in photosynthesis and through reduction of human energy use by shading in hot weather and wind breaks in cold weather.

In some cases, though, trees can have water-related impacts that are not positive for humans.  For example, tree use of water in some situations can reduce stream flows that provide water supplies, especially in summer; and in western states that depend on snowpack for water supply, trees may either increase or decrease the available snowpack, depending on several factors.

Such circumstances remind us that trees exist for their own survival and reproduction, not for human benefit; nevertheless, those long-living, photosynthesizing, woody, and goodly tall beings do provide human beings with irreplaceable benefits.

Thanks to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this episode’s music, and we close out the episode—and our series on trees and shrubs—with the final 20 seconds of “Fair Meadows and Goodly Tall Trees.”

MUSIC  - ~22 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of “Cripple Creek” to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Virginia Water Radio thanks Kevin McGuire and Stephen Schoenholtz, both of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center and the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, for their help with this episode.

“Fair Meadows and Goodly Tall Trees (Fingal’s Cave),” from the 2006 album “Jamestown: On the Edge of a Vast Continent,” is copyright by Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  More information about Timothy Seaman is available online at  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 354, 2-6-17.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


(Photographs are by Virginia Water Radio.)

Trees planted along in riparian (streamside) zone of Stroubles Creek on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. (Montgomery County), December 8, 2022.

Trees planted beside a stormwater facility on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., October 3, 2010.

Sycamore trees along the James River in Buchanan, Va. (Botetourt County), December 27, 2008.

Tree leaves providing a source of food and habitat for aquatic invertebrate animals in Pandapas Pond in Montgomery County, Va., January 4, 2009.

Woody debris in Little Stony Creek in U.S. Forest Service’s Cascades Day Use Area in Giles County, Va., July 10, 2014.

Trees providing shade, stormwater runoff reduction, and other benefits in downtown Blacksburg, Va., June 13, 2013.


The following information is from the Virginia Department of Forestry, “Benefits of Trees,” online at, as of 12-19-22.

Trees in Forests: Forests are well known for providing a renewable source of wood products. Some products come from the trees themselves, while others, like mushrooms or medicinal herbs, come from the forested environment. In addition to lumber, paper, and a host of other products, forests provide benefits called ‘ecosystem services,’ including filtering air to improve air quality; preventing soil erosion; supplying places for outdoor recreation; providing wildlife and pollinator habitat; sequestering and storing carbon; protecting water quality; offering scenic beauty.” 

Trees in Cities and Towns: Trees in urban areas and yards have value, too. Neighborhoods with lots of trees have lower crime rates, less air pollution, lower energy costs, and higher property values than those without trees. Walking among trees can improve health, and even viewing trees through a window can speed patient recovery times.”

Trees in Riparian [Streamside] Areas: Trees in riparian, or streamside, zones provide special ecosystem benefits, including: filtering runoff to remove pesticides, fertilizer, and other chemicals; preventing streambank erosion and keeping sediment out of the stream; shading streams to keep them cool for aquatic organisms; dropping organic matter that serves as food and microhabitat for aquatic organisms; [and slowing] water during storm events....reducing flood potential.”


(This image was also including in the Show Notes for Virginia Water Radio Episode 621, 3-21-22, the introductory episode in the series on trees and shrubs.)


Used for Audio

Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, “Forests,” online at See also the Alliance’s November 29, 2022, blog post about goal of planting 29,000 trees in 2022; and information on their 2022 Volunteer Tree-planting Relay, online at

Center for Watershed Protection, “Trees and Stormwater Runoff,” online at

F. Stuart Chapin, III, et al., Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology, Second Edition, Springer Science+Business Media, New York, N.Y, 2011.

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement,” online at  The 2014 Bay Watershed Agreement is online (as a PDF) at; see the “Vital Habitats” section in “Goals and Outcomes” (page 8 of the document) for a statement of the desired “Outcomes” for forest buffers and tree canopy.

Vincent Cotrone, “The Role of Trees and Forests in Healthy Watersheds,” Penn State Extension, August 30. 2022, online at

Michael Kuhns, “Windbreaks for Energy Conservation,” National Urban and Community Forestry Council, September 10, 2019, online at

Colleen Meidt, “USU study finds big trees play a big role in preserving snowpack,” Utah Public Radio, May 5, 2022, online at

Danielle Rhea, “Benefits of Large Woody Debris in Streams,” Penn State Extension, March 1, 2021, online at

Eryn E. Schneider et al., “Tree spatial patterns modulate peak snow accumulation and snow disappearance,” Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 441, pages 9-19, June 1, 2019; accessed through ScienceDirect, online at, 12-15-22 (subscription may be necessary for online access).

Virginia Department of Forestry:
“Benefits of Trees,” online at;
“Benefits of Streamside Forests, online at;
“My Trees Count,” online at (this Web site has information about tree-planting projects across Virginia).

Timothy B. Wheeler and Jeremy Cox, Bay region loses ground in effort to increase urban tree canopy, Bay Journal, October 11, 2022.

For Examples of Tree Issues and Efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Following are links to four articles in the December 2022 issue of Bay Journal, which show various aspects of trees’ connections to water resources and to human communities. The December 2022 Bay Journal is available online at
Timothy B. Wheeler, “'Witness trees' signal hope in flood-prone MD community,” page 15.
Timothy B. Wheeler, “MD still losing forests and trees, but at a slower rate,” page 16.
Ad Crable, “Oaks dying at record rates across Chesapeake region,” page 21.
Ad Crable, “Volunteers work through the night in Bay region’s first 'Treelay,'” page 25.

For More Information about Trees and Shrubs in Virginia and Elsewhere

Arbor Day Foundation, “Tree Guide,” online at

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Field Guide: Plants and Trees,” online at, “Flora of North America,” online at

James P. Engel, “Shrubs in the Understory,” February 2012, online at

Oscar W. Gupton and Fred C. Swope, Trees and Shrubs of Virginia, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1981.

Sanglin Lee and Alan Raflo, “Trees and Water,” Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, pages 13-18, online at   (A Virginia Cooperative Extension version of this article—“Trees and Water,” by Sanglin Lee, Alan Raflo, and Jennifer Gagnon, 2018—with some slight differences in the text is available online at

Penn State Extension, “Trees, Shrubs, and Groundcovers Tolerant of Wet Sites,” prepared by N. Robert Nuss, and reviewed and revised by Scott Guiser and Jim Smellmer, October 2007, online at           

Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension, “How Trees Grow,” online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, Forests of Virginia, 2020, Resource Update FS-395, Asheville, N.C., 2022; available online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service, “State and Private Forestry Fact Sheet—Virginia 2022,” online (as a PDF) at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service/Climate Change Resource Center, “Forest Tree Diseases and Climate Change,” online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Natural Resources Conservation Service, “PLANTS Database,” online at

Virginia Botanical Associates, “Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora,” online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation/Natural Heritage, online at   See also “The Natural Communities of Virginia: Ecological Groups and Community Types,” online (as a PDF) at

Virginia Department of Forestry:
“Virginia’s Forests,” online at;
“Common Native Trees of Virginia,” 2020 edition, online (as a PDF) at;
Tree and Forest Health Guide
, 2020, online (as a PDF) at;
“Virginia Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources,” November 2020, online (as a PDF) at; (see p. 23 for water quality benefits);
“Tree Identification,” online at

Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, online at

Virginia Forest Products Association, online at

Virginia Native Plant Society, online at

Alan S. Weakley, J. Christopher Ludwig, and John F. Townsend, Bland Crowder, ed., Flora of Virginia, Botanical Research Institute Press, Ft. Worth, Tex., 2012.  Information is available online at The Flora of Virginia Project,

Timothy B. Wheeler and Jeremy Cox, Bay region loses ground in effort to increase urban tree canopy, Bay Journal, October 11, 2022.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Plants” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on trees and shrubs.

Introduction to trees and water – Episode 621, 3-21-22.
American Sycamore – Episode 624, 4-11-22.
American Witch Hazel – Episode 639, 10-24-22.
Ash trees – Episode 376, 7-10-17 and Episode 625, 4-18-22.
Early spring wildflowers in woodlands – Episode 573, 4-19-21.
Fall colors and their connection to water movement in trees – Episode 638, 10-10-22.
“Fifteen Minutes in the Forest” video podcast series – Episode 637, 9-26-22.
Forest lands and work in Virginia – Episode 623, 4-4-22.
Halloween-themed tree quiz – Episode 640, 10-31-22.
Maple trees – Episode 503, 12-16-19.
Photosynthesis – Episode 602, 11-8-21.
Poison Ivy and related plants, including the shrub Poison Sumac – Episode 535, 7-27-20.
Rhododendrons – Episode 574, 4-26-21.
Shrubs Introduction – Episode 630, 6-20-22.
Tree buds – Episode 622, 3-28-22.
Tree colors and changes in fall, including changes to water movement – Episode 638, 10-10-22.
Trees in watery habitats – Episode 626, 4-25-22.
Waterside trees as bird nesting habitat – Episode 627, 5-9-22.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-3 plus 5: Matter
K.4 – Water is important in our daily lives and has properties.

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes
K.7 – Plants and animals have basic needs and life processes.
1.4 – Plants have basic life needs (including water) and functional parts that allow them to survive.
1.5 – Animals, including humans, have basic life needs that allow them to survive.
2.5 – Living things are part of a system.
3.5 – Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems support a diversity of organisms.
4.2 – Plants and animals have structures that distinguish them from one another and play vital roles in their ability to survive.
4.3 – Organisms, including humans, interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem.

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems
3.6 – Soil is important in ecosystems.
3.7 – There is a water cycle and water is important to life on Earth.
4.4 – Weather conditions and climate have effects on ecosystems and can be predicted.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
K.11 – Humans use resources.
1.8 – Natural resources can be used responsibly.
2.8 – Plants are important natural resources.
3.8 – Natural events and humans influence ecosystems.
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.
5.9 – Conservation of energy resources is important.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.
6.8 – Land and water have roles in watershed systems.
6.9 – Humans impact the environment and individuals can influence public policy decisions related to energy and the environment.

Life Science
LS.4 – There are chemical processes of energy transfer which are important for life.
LS.5 – Biotic and abiotic factors affect an ecosystem.
LS.6 – Populations in a biological community interact and are interdependent.
LS.8 – Change occurs in ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms over time.
LS.9 – Relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.
LS.11 – Populations of organisms can change over time.

Earth Science
ES.6 – Resource use is complex.
ES.8 – Freshwater resources influence and are influenced by geologic processes and human activity.
ES.12 – The Earth’s weather and climate result from the interaction of the sun’s energy with the atmosphere, oceans, and the land.

BIO.2 – Chemical and biochemical processes are essential for life.
BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Economics Theme
2.8 – Natural, human, and capital resources.
3.8 – Understanding of cultures and of how natural, human, and capital resources are used for goods and services.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – Knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History: 1865-to-Present Course
USII.9 – Domestic and international issues during the second half of the 20th Century and the early 21st Century.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – How selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.3 – How regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.4 – Types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

Government Course
GOVT.15 – Role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.
Episode 606, 12-6-21 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.