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Arbor Day: Social Distancing Doesn't Apply to Trees

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You might not be able to hug your neighbor, but you can still hug a tree. Studies suggest that people's access to trees helps reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure.  (Adobe Stock)
You might not be able to hug your neighbor, but you can still hug a tree. Studies suggest that people's access to trees helps reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN - Producer, Contact
April 24, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS -- Arbor Day looks a little different in Indiana this year - however, advocates of the annual event say the spirit of the day is still strong.

Indiana has recognized Arbor Day since 1884, and typically schools and community groups host large tree-planting events.

While those types of gatherings aren't possible with social distancing, Carrie Tauscher -- the community and urban forestry coordinator for the Division of Forestry in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources -- encourages Hoosiers to pause and celebrate the benefits of trees.

"It seems like a far stretch, but people really are interconnected with trees, and they help us in a lot of different ways," says Tauscher. "On a hot sunny day, shade is appreciated by just about everyone out there. So if nothing else, protection from the sun is something that trees provide to all of us."

Tauscher adds trees help the ecosystem by reducing soil erosion and improving air quality as they absorb carbon in the atmosphere. Studies also link access to trees and green spaces to people's reduced stress levels and lower blood pressure.

Tauscher explains most of Indiana's deforestation occurred before the 1930s, and is now more often found in urban communities.

"As municipalities grow and change, parcels that were less desirable - now they're taking the additional cost to improve the land, strip the trees, add drainage and then develop that," says Tauscher. "Or as communities grow, what was a wooded lot becomes a subdivision."

Planting a tree is a time-honored Arbor Day tradition, but Tauscher says there are things to consider before putting the shovel in the ground, including a tree's potential size and its specific needs.

"So, making sure that you don't have mulch up against the trunk of your tree," says Tauscher. "If you are mulching, making sure that you are not over mulching. Those are all really easy things that you can do at any age, at any ability, and it's going to help promote healthier trees in our communities."

The Division of Forestry has a series of online posts dedicated to Arbor Day, including videos and tips on how to plant and care for trees.

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