TCNP Blog and News

What’s the Buzz?

Apiphobia – the fear of bees.  Most of us were taught at a young age to be weary of anything that stings, bees being the main culprit.  From electric swatters to expert exterminators, we spend countless dollars trying to eradicate the very insects that need our protection.

            Bees are one example of a group known as pollinators – individuals who move pollen between flowers and instigate seed fertilization and reproduction.  Scientifically speaking, these individuals work as vectors to move pollen from male anthers to female stigma, which in turn fertilizes female gametes and allows reproduction to occur.  Simply put, pollinators allow flowers to come in contact with each other and make more seeds.  In Alabama, many of these pollinators include bees, wasps, hummingbirds, butterflies, ants, and bats – many are stigmatized as being dangerous and deadly.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) with bee

While the bee is the pollinator, the plant is the pollinizer and is the source of pollination for the bee. Many plants that require pollination include native beauties like purple coneflower (right) and Rudbeckia (below).  These plants rely on pollination to grow, mature, and reproduce.  In return, pollinators receive nectar and other pollen rewards from plants.  Nectar offers necessary carbohydrates and pollen has proteins, fats, and vitamins.  This mutualistic relationship works to keep each party alive and build families and generations. 

Rudbeckia triloba (Brown-Eyed Susan)

Plants need pollinators and vice versa, but why do we care – why do we need pollinators?  Firstly, pollinators not only fertilize pretty flowers.  They also pollinate over half of our crops.  Okra, potatoes, and onions are a few examples of the countless food items that need pollinators to produce yield.  Pollinators also direct biodiversity.  Areas that are abundant with pollinators will have more flowers, fruits, and more plant species overall.  Rich biodiversity not only indicates a healthy ecosystem but also provides food and habitat for more species.  Plants also lower levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, a conversation for another time.  More plants mean more animals, more clean air, more food, and more natural beauty. 

The takeaway?  We need pollinators and they need us.  Due to deforestation, urbanization, and erosion, pollinators are losing vital habitat and foraging space.  They are running out of places to live and feed.  Chemical pesticides also endanger pollinators, which in turn damages the many plants that rely on pollination.  Although there are large scale solutions like ending deforestation and reversing climate change, there is also a simple at home solution – plant a pollinator garden.  By planting certain flowering species, you can easily attract pollinators and supply the nutrients necessary for their survival.  Not sure where to begin with your pollinator garden?  Follow this list to get started.

  • Feed pollinators all year – Make sure to plant species that will flower at different times of the year.
  • Make it attractive – You want a home that looks loved and clean and so do your pollinators.
  • Have plant diversity – Pollinators all favor different foods, so make sure to plant a variety of food options.
  • Provide the necessities – Just like us, pollinators need shelter and water, so adding some spaces of shade and hydration will attract even more pollinators.
Liatris (Blazing Star)

Brianne Kendall

I am a junior at Birmingham-Southern College from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  I am studying Urban Environmental Science, with a double minor in math and religion, in the hopes of becoming the next Dian Fossey.  When I am not studying, you will either find me in the theatre department or the great outdoors.

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Let’s Talk Trash

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a natural wonder… but one thing that is not natural—or wonderful—is trash. And it’s becoming a regular sight among our banks, in and out of the water.

What is Littering?

The formal definition of littering is the illegal disposal of waste materials in public or private spaces. Litter is trash that has been thrown away and left to be picked up by others. Littering is a form of pollution and can have substantial negative consequences for the natural environment. It can result in the contamination of land, waterways, groundwater, and other shared natural resources.

 Littering is illegal in every state, including Alabama. Here in Alabama, anyone who is found knowingly depositing litter on any property or water without permission to do so is breaking the law and will face a minimum of $250 fine for first offense, and a $500 fine for each offense afterwards.

Why shouldn’t you do it?

Think your trash doesn’t harm anyone? Think again.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is home to more than just the beautiful falls. The preserve is home to seven protected species including three endangered species of fish: The Rush Darter, the Watercress Darter, and the Vermilion Darter. In addition to being endangered, the Vermilion Darter is also endemic to Turkey Creek, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. Turkey Creek is also home to a threatened species of flower, the Eared Coneflower, a critically endangered species of bat: Grey Bat, and an endangered species of turtle: The Flattened Musk Turtle. Turkey Creek may be your favorite place to swim, but to the wildlife and plants here, it’s home! Trash can contaminate water and land and kill or injury wildlife and plants.

Like to swim in clean water?

In addition to the wonderful biodiversity here, our water is clean and clear and safe to swim in because it is naturally sourced from groundwater. Litter can contaminate groundwater, decreasing the water quality of your favorite swimming hole.

What you can do to help:

  1. Just throw it away: Don’t throw trash on the ground or in the water! Ever! Toss it in your nearest trash can or hold on to it until you can find one.
  2. Clean it up: See trash? Pick it up! You wouldn’t leave trash lying around in your yard or swimming pool at home, would you?
  3. Be a Steward of the Land: Treat the preserve the way you would your own land. As visitors, we all have a responsibility to respect the preserve and leave it as clean or cleaner than we found it.

Abbi Hallman

I am a 21 year old college student from Jasper, Alabama. Currently, I am a senior studying Urban Environmental Studies and psychology at Birmingham-Southern College. After college, I plan on attending law school and becoming an environmental attorney.

 

 

Sources Consulted:

Bullard, E. 2019. Littering. Salem Press Encyclopedia.

TCNP Management. 2013. “Conservation.” Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

Alabama Forever Wild. 2018. “Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.” Alabama Forever Wild.

JeffCO H20:Please Don’t Feed the Weeds

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Sure, winter is still here and it’s cold outside.  But for those of you who have visions of lush green turf grass dancing in your heads, rest assured that a beautiful well-kept lawn is just a few months away.  It’s important to know what type of turf grass you have prior to applying any products. The most common grasses for our area are Bermuda, zoysia, centipede and St. Augustine.  These are called warm season grasses because they go dormant in cold weather.  Experts recommend applying a pre-emergent product to your lawn once per year.  If you missed this chore in the fall, mid to late February is an ideal time to eliminate weeds before they    have a chance to establish. This preemptive strike could reduce the need for herbicides later in the growing season.  One temptation is also to fertilize the lawn before it is “awake”.  Fertilizing your lawn before it is green and ready to uptake nutrients will only provide an ideal situation for weeds to grow, waste your money, and possibly provide an opportunity for rain to wash the fertilizer into local waterways.  Always wait until the temperatures are warm enough so that there is no chance of frost, and your turf grass is completely green before applying the right fertilizer for your soil’s needs.  For best results, FIRST do a soil test to determine exactly what nutrients are missing.  You can pick up a FREE soil test kit from the Jefferson County Stormwater Program Office, B-210 Courthouse, or at your local Alabama Extension Office.  The cost to mail and receive an analysis from Auburn University is $7 per sample.  Then, choose the right product for the job and ALWAYS follow label directions.

What’s Happening?

AL People Against a Littered State (PALS) Spring Cleanup – Want to make a difference in your community?  Consider organizing or participating in a volunteer roadside litter cleanup.  Last year, 1076 volunteers participated in 35 cleanups, removing 57 tons of litter and trash from roadways in unincorporated Jefferson County.  Several of these volunteers received statewide awards for their efforts.  Cleanup resources such as flyers, gloves, bags, safety t-shirts, traffic control and trash disposal are available for FREE to unincorporated Jefferson County Communities.  Call 325-8741 to learn how your community can participate!

Tree Seedling Giveaway – February 22 – Celebrate Arbor Day and stop by Linn Park from 8 am – 2 pm to select FREE tree seedlings ready for planting.  For more information, call 787-5222 or 781-0598.

 25th Annual Plant Dig – February 25 – Grab your shovels, wheeled carts, and come on out to the New Georgia Landfill between 8 am and 1 pm to select and bring home some FREE native plants, just in time for your spring gardening plans!  Call 787-5222 or 781-0598 to learn more.

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

 

 

JeffCO H20:It’s Just a Drop!

oil-leaking-from-carYou notice a drop of oil on the driveway under your car.  Not a big deal, right?  Probably not a good reason to spend the time and  money to take the car into the service shop.  But then there is another drop tomorrow, and another the next day.  At the end of the week, it still doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about, just seven drops.  That is, until you factor in the other 600,000 vehicles registered in Jefferson County.  If just 10% of these cars drip one drop of oil per day, that winds up being more than 3 quarts of oil dripping on the ground every day, or more than 5 gallons by the end of the week.  That 5 gallons of oil can pollute 5 MILLION gallons of water if it is washed by rain into a creek or stream.  To put that into perspective, an Olympic sized pool contains just 660,000 gallons of water.  So yes, one drop does matter.  A first line of defense is to place a catch pan or oil absorbent pad under the car until you can get the leak fixed.  If oil or other fluid is on the driveway, use a dry material such as cat litter or oil absorbent granules which can be purchased at most big box and auto care centers to clean it up.  The dry material can be sprinkled on the spill, allowed to soak up the oil or fluid, swept up, and put into the trash.  Never hose down the driveway, since that can easily wash pollutants into a storm drain, ditch or gutter which in turn empties directly into a local creek or stream!

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

 

JeffCO H20: Beauty and the Beads

bodywash-beadsThere are literally tens of thousands of beauty products on the market that claim to make your skin feel and look smoother.  One type of product is skin cleanser that contains an exfoliant.  The premise behind these products is that they gently remove dry surface skin cells to reveal smoother skin.  Many of these products contain plastic microbeads to do the job of exfoliation.  But microbeads aren’t just prevalent in the beauty industry.  Some toothpastes contain microbeads to polish and whiten your teeth as you brush.  So what’s the big deal if these products work?  While the microbeads may do just what they are supposed to do, they can create some dire consequences once they go down your sink or shower drain.  Plastic microbeads do not disintegrate and the municipal wastewater treatment process can’t filter them from wastewater.  Instead, the microbeads remain intact, making their way to local creeks, rivers, lakes, and oceans.  Fish and other aquatic animals swallow the microbeads, which means that microbeads could wind up in your food supply.  In December 2015, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 became law, banning the manufacture of rinse off cosmetics, which includes toothpastes that contain intentionally added plastic microbeads, effective July 1, 2017.  The other good news is that there are many cleansing products available that contain exfoliants made from biodegradable ingredients such as fruit pits, nut shells, sugar, or salt.  You can even make your own with similar common ingredients.  As for toothpaste, read the label and choose one that does not contain microbeads, or consider alternatives such as toothpaste containing sustainable polishing agents like baking soda.

 

 

What’s Happening?

‘Tis the Season to Recycle – Between decorating, gifting, and feasting, the holiday season generates more waste than any other time of year.  This can offer a great opportunity to intentionally look for ways to recycle or reuse rather than discard items that you no longer need or want.

  • Check out aeconline.org for information about what and where to recycle many items.
  • Consider donating gently used items such as furniture, clothing, and housewares to a local charity for someone else to enjoy rather than just discarding them.
  • Cease the Grease – Jefferson County’s free household cooking oil and grease recycling program offers clean plastic jugs and recycling kiosks conveniently placed at 21 locations.

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

JeffCO H20:Waste Not

food-waste-thanksgiving When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably imagine a huge, delicious meal enjoyed with friends and family.  Many holidays and celebrations seem to revolve around food.  After all, food is one of the basic necessities for human life.  But in spite of its importance to our very survival, Americans throw away about 133 BILLION pounds of food – worth $162 billion – each year.  For the average American family, that adds up to discarding about 20 pounds of food per person per month, which means we also are throwing away about $2,200 per household each year.  Whether you overbought at the grocery store, food wasn’t properly stored, or you have some picky eaters, unwanted food usually winds up in the trash where it is transported to a landfill.  Food waste is the largest component of landfills, which in turn are the largest generators of methane, a greenhouse gas. food_scraps_pile On top of that, the land, water, energy, and other requirements of growing and transporting food to the consumer where about 1/3 of it winds up in the trash is a huge waste of resources.  These steps involved in getting food to your table, which include fertilizer and pesticide use, irrigation, emissions from vehicles, and power generation, can degrade water quality.  So what can be done to reduce the amount of food we throw away and the natural resources we waste or harm by doing so?  A good starting point is to plan what food you want to serve for the week, buy only what you know that you will use, and properly store the food until it is consumed.  Search for recipes that can incorporate often wasted items such as slightly wilted vegetables (try adding to soup) or overripe fruit (whip up a smoothie) to make meals your family will enjoy while using up all the food you purchased.  When serving a meal, only put what you know will be eaten on the plate.  You can always come back for seconds!  Carefully and properly store leftovers.  For food which has no further use (some fruit and vegetable cores and peels, coffee grounds, egg shells), starting a compost pile which will yield a rich organic soil amendment for your garden is a great option.  Wasting good, edible food is especially disturbing since 1 in 6 Americans live in households where access to food is not always secure.  Some places of worship, food banks and shelters can accept unopened, unexpired food – ALWAYS check with the agency first before you drop off any food.food_waste

 

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

JeffCO H20: Awesome Autumn!

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The mornings and nights are noticeably cooler, colorful crunchy leaves are falling from the trees, and the hours of daylight are getting shorter.  Kids are back in school, the vacation mode of summer is a thing of the past, and the activity calendar is full.  To balance out the uptick in your to do list, the growing season is winding down which means you don’t have to cut the lawn every weekend (just in time for football season)!  In spite of the change of pace in the yard which coincides with the start of cooler weather, there’s still a lot to do to take advantage of the gifts of autumn and get your landscape ready for spring.  Sallie Lee, Urban Regional Extension Agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Jefferson County, has assembled some easy stormwater friendly tips to help you prepare your yard for the months to come.  And as if that’s not enough, Sallie has provided some calorie burning motivation to tackle these tasks.  Taking the time to implement these strategies now will have your landscape off to a great start when spring rolls round again.

What’s Happening?

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day – October 22 – Safely dispose of old or unwanted prescription drugs at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Center Point Substation (2651 Center Point Road 35215) or McCalla Substation (5725 Eastern Valley Road 35111) from 10am until 2pm.  Visit the DEA website for more information.

Cease the Grease – Remember that Jefferson County’s free household cooking oil and grease recycling program offers clean plastic jugs and recycling kiosks conveniently placed at 20 locations throughout Jefferson County.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens Fall Plant Sale – October 22-23 – This is a great opportunity to purchase native plants and trees just in time for the optimum planting season!  Visit bbgardens.org for more information.

They’re Here!!!  Stop by the Storm Water Management Department, Room B-210, Jefferson County Courthouse, to pick up your FREE 2017 Stormwater Calendar!

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741