Archive for the 'Plants' Category



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.

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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.

Simple Action: Share your yard with wildlife

Today’s Simple Action is to share your yard with wildlife.

Spring has arrived, and for many, yard maintainance and gardening has been added to the weekly to-do lists. There are very simple things you can do in your yard that will make a world of difference for our environment and wildlife.

 Americans directly apply 70 million pounds of pesticides to home lawns and gardens each year and, in so doing, kill birds and other wildlife and pollute our precious water resources. Instead of using pesticides, control insects using natural controls.

Also, plant native trees and shrubs because they use less fertilizer. Landscaping with natives, commonly referred to as “bayscaping,” also provides better food and shelter for wildlife, and requires less maintenance. These plants are adapted to local soil, rainfall and temperature conditions, and have developed natural defenses to many insects and diseases. Because of these traits, native plants will grow with minimal use of water, fertilizers and pesticides. 

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Simple Action: Volunteer your time

To celebrate Earth Day, every day this week we are sharing a simple action that can be taken to impact change. Everyone can do something to impact the health of our planet. Today, we’d like to encourage the simple action of volunteering.

Volunteering just a few hours of your time at a neighborhood cleanup or planting event is an easy way to show support for a healthy planet, and can really make an impact. In addition to Earth Day, organizations around the country are also celebrating National Volunteer Week.

In 2009, the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) helped restore 119 acres of Chesapeake Bay habitat, planted more than 1 million grasses and removed 539,936 pieces of debris from public parks! Only with the help of our dedicated, passionate volunteers are we able to restore habitat and create a cleaner, thriving environment.

While at a dune restoration event last week in Virginia Beach, ACT! stopped by a 2006 project site for monitoring. We are pleased to report the successful revival of the sand dunes at Little Creek, Virginia.

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Saving a special tree

When you think about the conservation efforts of the National Aquarium, the first thing that probably comes to mind is our work with endangered animals, particularly marine mammals and sea turtles. You may not realize that our conservation team also spends a lot of time restoring coastal habitats, and is even saving trees that are in danger of becoming endangered.

There is one particular species of tree that seems to be getting special attention these days, for good reason. The Atlantic white cedar trees are considered rare in Maryland, and conservation efforts are underway to restore this species and the valuable freshwater wetland habitat it creates.

Why are these evergreen trees rare? There are few species of trees that have been used to make everything from barrels, to water pipes, to railroad ties, and even gunpowder; historically, Atlantic white cedars were used for all this and more! Even pirates utilized Atlantic white cedar forests of New Jersey as a hiding place in the 1700s. Needless to say, a tree that produced strong, waterproof lumber was in high demand, and Atlantic white cedars were harvested heavily throughout their natural range along the East Coast, from Maine to Florida. Heavy cutting for these commercial uses has continued during this century.

Our conservation team saw the opportunity to help this cause and educate students along the way by adding Atlantic white cedar plantings to the Wetland Nursery Program. 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Planting a milestone

The Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) has seen many great volunteers come and go over the years, but one volunteer who has seen the program through since the very beginning is Mary Sidlowski.  She is a mainstay at nearly every one of our conservation events, a source of inspiration and comic relief. 

Mary began volunteering for the Aquarium in 1993 because she was looking for “a rewarding way to fill her time.”  Since then she has become an integral part of many departments; she divides her time between working in Australia Wild Extremes, the rainforest, membership, education, the Marine Animal Rescue Program, and ACT! 

“I was in ACT! before ACT! existed,” Mary says with a smile.  She recalls a time when the Conservation Team’s only projects were beach clean-ups at Assateague Island, and she says “every year it has gotten better and better.”  Now Mary loves to participate in wetland and dune restoration projects, and really enjoys planting the grasses – even if it means being covered in mud!  “It’s very rewarding work, because you get to immediately see the results of what you’ve done,” she explains. 

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Gardening to protect our waterways: you can help!

Did you know that planting a tree or two can help save our local waterways? The National Aquarium partners with the Naval Support Facility Indian Head and the Charles Country Master Gardeners on restoration events that are rebuilding coastal habitats of the Potomac River. The next events are being held October 21-25,  and we need your help!

The goal if this project is to create a riparian buffer along the riverside. A riparian buffer is a natural biofilter that protects our waterways and prevents excess runoff from the surface pollution. In other words, planting a trees, grasses, and shrubs can be a big help in keeping our waters cleaner, and giving more animals a place to live. Ripairan buffers have played a significant role in soil conservation, improved water quality, healthy aquatic systems, and offer habitats for diverse wildlife .

Volunteers over 18 years of age and that are US citizens (due to base restrictions), are asked to join us for one or more field days from 9am-4pm on October 21-25, 2008. We can all actively do little things to help preserve our environment, no green thumb required! Click here to learn more about the event. To volunteer contact Charmaine Dahlenburg at conserve@aqua.org or 410-659-4274 by October 15.


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