Archive for the 'Plants' Category



Full cycle recycling

When it came time to re-mulch the waterfront park, our horticulturists did their due diligence in choosing a mulch product that not only fit the needs of the park, but was also in line with the Aquarium’s sustainability efforts.

As it turns out, the mulch that best fit our needs comes from the same company that we use for our composting needs. Recycled Green Industries is a commercial composting facility in Woodbine, Maryland, that provides compost and topsoil for landscaping needs.

Each year, more than 30,000 pounds of organic waste from the Aquarium’s café kitchens, animal prep kitchens, and visitor and staff dining areas is sent to the Recycled Green farm for composting.

Last week, 3 cubic yards of composted mulch was delivered and incorporated into the park. What was once Aquarium waste earlier this year may very well be what’s helping to keep our plants and trees alive today. It’s great to see our recycling efforts come full circle!

Over 50,000 trees & grasses planted in 2010!

As we welcome the start of the New Year, the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) would also like to take a moment to reflect back on a successful end to 2010. The National Public Lands Day event at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine on September 25 was a great wrap-up for our 2010 Field Days. Led by our experienced ACT! members, 189 volunteers spent their Saturday morning removing 20,000 pieces of debris from the Inner Harbor. Since 1998, Aquarium volunteers have collected more than 12 million pieces of debris from this small wetland!

In October, we spent a week at Naval Support Facility Indian Head in Charles County, Maryland. With the help of 50 volunteers, we restored nearly a mile of riparian buffer along the Potomac River. We were very pleased to work with not only local community members, but also AmeriCorps volunteers from the Maryland Conservation Corps, and quite a few volunteers and staff from the National Aquarium Institute. It’s a good thing we had so much dedicated help, because the event involved planting 1,850 trees – and we’re not talking seedlings! The shoreline is now home to a healthy mix of sweet bay magnolia, river birch, black willow, sycamore, and several other riparian species. We will be returning to Indian Head to plant marsh grasses along the lower intertidal area of the rebuilt shoreline in the spring. Sign up to receive e-mail from our Conservation team about upcoming events.

Volunteers help restore sand dunes at Virginia Beach

In early November, we switched gears and traveled to Virginia Beach to continue our work restoring the dunes at area naval bases. This trip involved planting 7,000 native dune grasses at JEB Little Creek and 20,000 grasses at NASO Dam Neck. Over the course of four days, we had the help of nearly 150 volunteers – they included dedicated ACT! members, base personnel, local school groups, community members, and partners from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.

In total, ACT! planted 50,030 grasses and trees in 2010. Of course, we could not have done it without the help of 731 wonderful volunteers! Many thanks to all of you who spent time with us restoring the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and we hope to see you in 2011.

When given a chance, life flourishes

If visitors to the harbor could see below the surface of the water, they would see an abundance of aquatic life, from blue-fish and blue crabs to dozens of other species. They survive there despite the extremely poor water quality, which can often lead to fish kills and algae blooms.

Three months ago today we introduced an innovative approach to upgrade that water quality: manmade floating wetlands. Just three months into the project, we have seen that our wetland is becoming a complete, thriving ecosystem, with all the components you would expect to see in a marsh! This single wetland is telling us that when given a chance, life flourishes.

Our wetland is part of a pilot project that includes two other floating islands in the harbor, installed and managed by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, a group that includes the Aquarium and Baltimore City. The goal? To prove that these wetlands have a positive effect on harbor habitat.

For the next two years, we will be collecting data to evaluate one island’s effect on water quality, with the Maryland Department of the Environment close by our side. The data we’ve already collected are promising! To help show you what we’re seeing, our cameras took a dive below the surface:

Our island was installed late in the summer, so the plants didn’t have an entire season to grow. Despite this, the plants have thrived. But the thriving plants above the island only tell a small part of the story. As you saw in the video, a lot of the action goes on beneath the island.

Continue reading ‘When given a chance, life flourishes’

Wetlands are wonderful!

Despite its concrete walls, the Baltimore Harbor is looking a little greener with the addition of new floating wetlands. It’s no secret that the water quality of the harbor could use a little help, but the bulkheads that surround the Harbor make it unsuitable for the traditional muddy shoreline restoration projects the National Aquarium’s Conservation Team typically takes on. But where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Floating wetlands have long been utilized in retention ponds as an attempt to deal with excess nutrients from farm fields and landscaping, but only recently has this technology moved to tidal, brackish areas like the Chesapeake Bay. This concept is now being introduced to Baltimore’s urban waterfront as part of the Healthy Harbor Initiative launched by the Waterfront Partnership, which includes the Aquarium and Baltimore City.

Continue reading ‘Wetlands are wonderful!’

Baltimore’s hidden green gem

Did you know that part of the Aquarium’s roof is green? Five years ago this summer, during the Aquarium’s major building expansion, a green roof was installed on a portion of Pier 3 just behind the Australia exhibit.

Each spring the roof blooms into a lush, green landscape, and this year was no exception!

It was designed as an “extensive” green roof, which is virtually self-sustaining and requires minimum maintenance. “Intensive” green roofs, on the other hand, are more labor-intensive. A very thin layer of soil supports a variety of stonecrops (Sedum) and ornamental onions (Allium).

We believe this roof is one of Baltimore’s hidden gems. Green roofs provide many benefits to cities, especially during the dog days of summer. Traditional building materials soak up the sun’s radiation and re-emit it as heat, making cities 6-10°F hotter than surrounding areas. This is called the urban heat island effect. Our roof may be small, but we hope it is helping to alleviate some of the intense heat Baltimore City is experiencing this week!

The roofs also reduce heating and cooling loads on a building. A study conducted by Environment Canada found a 25% reduction in summer cooling needs and a 26% reduction in winter heat losses when a green roof is used.

Green roofs will also last up to twice as long as conventional roofs by protecting exterior roof membranes from UV radiation, extreme temperature fluctuations, and punctures.

These roofs even help the surrounding environment because they reduce stormwater runoff by acting as a sponge. It has been found that they can retain up to 75% of rainwater, gradually releasing it back into the atmosphere via condensation and transpiration, while filtering pollutants and heavy metals in their soil. Pollutants and carbon dioxide are also filtered out of the air.

Finally, green roofs provide habitat for plants, insects, and animals that otherwise have limited natural space in cities. Rooftop greenery complements wild areas by providing “stepping stones” for songbirds, migratory birds, and other wildlife facing shortages of natural habitat.


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