Holden Forests & Gardens' Climate Change Statement

Leading up to Earth Day 2022, Holden Forests & Gardens (HF&G) has adopted a climate change statement recognizing that climate change is real and providing facts and information about climate change, its implications, and some ways we are working to mitigate climate change at the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the Holden Arboretum. We hope this can be a helpful resource for people still trying to understand this complicated topic.

The full statement is here, along with additional resources. 

Climate Change Statement

The climate is currently changing at an unprecedented rate and will continue to do so into the future. This on-going climate change is the direct result of human activities and is having significant and measurable impacts on the natural world here in northeast Ohio and around the globe. These impacts are reducing biodiversity, affecting the resilience and function of ecosystems, and impacting human health and welfare. The current changes in our climate are unparalleled and are the result of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are now at their highest level in at least 800,000 years. At least half of current warming can be attributed to greenhouse gases produced by human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas.

We

We HF&G manages for resilient and biodiverse forests that will be better able to withstand future climate changes. HF&G owns more than 3000 acres of natural areas that remove (sequester) approximately 14,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year (i-Tree estimates, courtesy of the Davey Institute, US tons reported).

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We Scientists at Holden Forests & Gardens actively conduct research to enhance our understanding of effective forest management practices now and as the climate continues to change.

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We Our “People for Trees” campaign seeks to increase tree canopy cover in Cleveland, mitigating the urban heat island effect and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. This will create a greener, healthier environment in our communities.

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We HF&G is changing its general operation over the next three years to reduce CO2 emissions. Actions include:  Encouraging staff to carpool, take mass transit, or telecommute when possible. All new building or renovation will reduce energy use by at least 25%. On-site food sales will shift to reduce carbon emissions. At least 40% of menu items will be vegan or vegetarian, and we will source 10% of our offering from a 100-miles radius from our campuses.

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You

You Join our “People for Trees” campaign and plant a tree in your yard or community. Pledge to plant and your tree today.

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You Trees help mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the environment. Our Tree Selection Guide is a comprehensive list of trees for our region compiled by Holden experts.

View the guide


You For individuals who own several acres or more of forested lands, our Working Woods program offers advice and state of the art recommendations for how to improve your woodlot, so trees thrive now and into the future. Our new Small Woodland Owner Guide -FREE- makes taking care of your forest easier to tackle and manage for the long and short term.

View guide


You You can also take a class to learn more about the natural world around us in Northeast Ohio.

Take a class

Holden Forests & Gardens acknowledges and recognizes climate change and its impacts, and is taking actions to mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change.

The climate is currently changing at an unprecedented rate and will continue to do so as we move into the future. This on-going climate change is the direct result of human activities and is having significant and measurable impacts on the natural world here in northeast Ohio and around the globe. These impacts are reducing biodiversity, affecting the resilience and function of ecosystems, and impacting human health and welfare.

How is the climate changing?

The climate has changed dramatically over the past century. Globally, the climate has warmed 2.0°F (1.09°C) since the end of the 19th century; with most of that warming occurring in the last 40 years. The city of Cleveland has warmed by 2.4°F (1.33°C) since the 1950s. The past several decades have, in fact, constituted the warmest period in the past 1000 years. As we move into the future, this warming trend will continue at an increasing pace.

Additionally, patterns of precipitation are changing, though these patterns are variable across the globe. Some areas are experiencing increased precipitation, some decreased precipitation, and others high variability in precipitation with more extreme precipitation events interspersed by periods of drought.

Earth has experienced fluctuations in climate conditions throughout its history, including well before humans. The current rate of change, however, is unprecedented and troubling. This is the fastest rate of warming ever experienced on Earth. Earth is currently warming ten-times faster than the average rate of warming following ice ages. Modeling future greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, scientists predict over 2.7°F to 4.5°F (1.5°C to 2.5°C) of additional warming by 2100, depending on levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions. Cleveland is expected to warm by 3°F to 7°F (1.7°C to 3.9°C) by 2050.

What’s causing this climate change?

Carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gasses (including methane and nitrous dioxide) normally present in the atmosphere serve to trap heat. While we need greenhouse gases to keep Earth’s climate warm and habitable, high levels of greenhouse gases can cause excess warming.

Greenhouse gases are now at their highest level in at least 800,000 years. Humans contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Most significantly, the burning of fossil fuels releases carbon long held within the Earth into the atmosphere as CO2, raising atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases and furthering warming. Models show that over half of recent climate warming is the direct result of human activity, principally greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

There is an abundance of compelling data from a variety of sources linking greenhouse gas levels to Earth’s current changing climate conditions.

What are the ecological impacts of climate change?

  • Globally, and across taxa, annual biotic events are increasingly happening earlier in the spring and later in the fall (e.g. flowers blooming earlier, insects emerging earlier).
    • This can lead to late frosts killing flowers and preventing fruit and seed set in natural systems and in agriculture as well as mismatches between partners such as plants and pollinators.
  • Species ranges are shifting, with some species expanding their northern range edges while contracting along their southern range edges (in the northern hemisphere). Likewise, species in mountainous regions are shifting up in elevation as a result of climate change. Some species that are unable to move quickly enough will be at risk for extinction.
    • This can result in reduced distribution of plants and animals and can isolate populations on the landscape. Isolation into small areas can further increase extinction risk.
  • Interactions among species will be altered as will the general well-being of populations of organisms. All of these factors will ultimately alter biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems.
    • Interactions between plants and pollinators are important for plant survival and fruit set. Changes in these interactions could affect plant and pollinator survival and agricultural output.
  • Climate change will also influence land management outcomes and likely alter best practices in restoration and management.
  • Climate change drives the spread of pests and pathogens throughout forests in Ohio, the Great Lakes Region, and beyond.
    • Many pests and pathogens that historically have not been able to tolerate cold winters, are moving northward as winters have become increasingly milder. These include hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA), an invasive scale-like insect from Asia that has led to hemlock die back in many southern and eastern states. This pest has generally been excluded from the Great Lakes Region by low winter temperatures. Climate change is expected to increase the pressure by novel pests and diseases in our forests, ultimately reducing forest health and productivity.

What are the societal impacts of climate change?

  • Globally, climate change is impacting agricultural yields. These effects have been variable geographically and across crops, but there has been an overall negative impact of climate change on crop yields. Changes in precipitation patterns could also affect agriculture. Most crops in the eastern US are not irrigated mechanically, but rather rely on rainfall. Reductions in rainfall during the growing season can lead to reduced crop production or complete crop failure, ultimately driving up food prices.    
  • Climate-driven weather extremes are disrupting ecosystems and food production and are damaging human infrastructure with broad consequences for the well-being of people around the globe.
  • Warming in the urban environment leads to greater energy use through increased air conditioning needs during hot summers, ultimately straining the electric infrastructure.
  • Hotter summers may be particularly harmful to our urban neighborhoods where the dominance of concrete, asphalt, and impervious surfaces often increases temperatures by an additional 5°F to 10°F (2.8°-5.6°C) (relative to surrounding rural areas; a phenomenon known as the heat island effect. These urban heat islands can have higher rates of heat-related discomfort, respiratory disease, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Under climate change, the heat island effect may be enhanced, making urban spaces even hotter and more dangerous in the summer months.

What is Holden Forests & Gardens doing to combat climate change?

  • Holden Forests & Gardens’ natural areas remove (sequester) about 14,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year (i-Tree estimates, courtesy of the Davey Institute).
  • Proper forest management can enhance the capacity of our forests to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change. Holden Forests & Gardens’ actively manages much of its forested land and demonstrates proper forest management techniques to the public through projects such as the Working Woods. Forest management practices increase carbon sequestration by increasing tree growth.
  • Holden Forests & Gardens manages for resilient and biodiverse forests that will be better able to withstand future climate changes.
  • Scientists at Holden Forests & Gardens actively conduct research to enhance our understanding of effective forest management practices now and as the climate continues to change.
  • HF&G scientists monitor the ecological impacts of global climate change on natural areas on Holden Forests & Gardens’ campuses, and beyond.
  • Efforts like People for Trees seek to increase tree canopy cover in Cleveland, mitigating the urban heat island effect and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

What does Holden Forests & Gardens plan to do to combat climate change into the future?

Holden will also take actions in its general operations over the next three years to reduce CO2 emissions and combat climate warming. Some specific action steps are:

  • Transportation accounts for 28% of US emissions (2018), making reductions in this category particularly significant to controlling overall CO2 emissions. To reduce emissions from transportation, by 2021 HF&G will incentivize employees to carpool, take mass transportation or telecommute when appropriate.
  • Energy generation for heating and electricity accounts for 27% of US carbon emissions. To reduce emissions in this area, by 2022 all new buildings or renovations by HF&G will reduce energy use by 25% relative to current (2020) levels for a comparable sized building. Further, we already offer educational programming to our guests on the benefits of renewable energy, and how they can reduce their carbon emissions.
  • By the end of 2020, HF&G will shift our on-site food sales to reduce carbon emissions. Specifically, at least 40% of all menu items offered will be vegan or vegetarian, and by 2022 10% of our offerings will be sourced from within a 100-miles radius of our campuses. Agricultural carbon emissions account for 10% of emissions in the US, with meat production generating a majority of these emissions, particularly on commercial feedlots (75% of US agriculture emissions come from animal production for meat or dairy).
  • For more information about HF&G’s efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and ensure a cleaner, greener world, visit our website at www.holdenfg.org.

Interested in learning more?

Want to take a look at the climate change evidence yourself? Here are some sources compiling the data behind the climate science.

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change. Every few years they produce a new report reviewing the state of climate change on Earth.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce that monitors oceans and the atmosphere. They collect long-term data on climate conditions globally.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) runs the US space program. Their Earth Science Division uses satellite-derived and other data to help understand global climate patterns.
  • NASA also maintains a website to teach kids about climate change and its consequences.
  • The University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems also has an information climate change fact sheet which can be found here.
  • The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has developed a toolkit for use by museums, gardens and zoos interested in reducing their carbon footprint.

Select publications from Holden Forests & Gardens scientists:

Stuble KL, LD Bennion, SE Kuebbing (2021) Plant phenological responses to experimental warming – A synthesis. Global Change Biology 27(17): 4110-4124.

Stuble KL, S Des Roches, A Ambrose, KC Brown, H Cooper, T Hilton, B Sinervo, LR Fox (2021) Regional networks of biological field stations to study climate change. BioScience 71(8): 874-882.

Stuble KL, S Bewick, M Fisher, ML Forister, SP Harrison, AM Shapiro, AM Latimer, LR Fox (2021) The promise and the perils of resurveying to understand global change impacts. Ecological Monographs 91(2): e01435. 

Fitzgerald, JL, KL Stuble, LM Nichols, SE Diamond, TR Wentworth, SL Pelini, NJ Gotelli, NJ Sanders, RR Dunn, CA Penick (2021) Abundance of spring-active arthropods declines with warming. Ecosphere 12(4): e03473.

Werner CM, KL Stuble, AM Groves, TP Young (2020) Year effects: Inter-annual variation as a driver of community assembly dynamics. Ecology 101(9): e03104.

Stuble KL, S Ma, J Liang, Y Luo, AT Classen, L Souza (2019) Long-term impacts of warming drive decomposition and accelerate the turnover of labile soil carbon. Ecosphere 10(5): e02715.

Burke DJ, Carrino-Kyker SR, Burns JH 2019. Is it climate or chemistry? Soil fungal communities respond to soil nutrients in a multi-year high-resolution analysis. Ecosphere 10 (10): e02896. 10.1002/ecs2.2896.

Stuble KL, E Zefferman, K Wolf, KJ Vaughn, TP Young (2017) Outside the envelope: rare events disrupt the relationship between climate factors and species interactions. Ecology 98: 1623-1630.

Burke DJ, Knisely C, Watson ML, Carrino-Kyker SR, and Mauk RL (2016) The effects of agricultural history on forest ecological integrity as determined by a rapid forest assessment method. Forest Ecology and Management 378: 1–13.

Burke DJ (2015) Effects of annual and inter-annual environmental variability on soil fungi associated with an old-growth, temperate hardwood forest. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 91 (6): doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiv053

Burke DJ, Smemo KA, López-Gutiérrez JC and DeForest JL (2012) Soil fungi influence the distribution of microbial functional groups that mediate forest greenhouse gas emissions. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 53: 112-119.

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