Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy

October 17, 2019 by  
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When Wendy Morgan accepted a friend’s invitation to go see Elda Behm’s garden in the 1990s, she had no idea she would become entangled in a project for the next 25 years. “Elda popped her head around the garage and that was the beginning of it,” Morgan says with a laugh. “She was a saleswoman.” The Port of Seattle was planning its third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport . Behm’s home and garden were in the way, so the port slated them for demolition, but Behm wasn’t giving up her garden without a fight. By the end of the decade, her charisma and love of her plants would entice Morgan and 200 other volunteers to move Behm’s entire garden. As Morgan and her dog Snooks show my tour group around the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden , we see the rich community partnership that has grown up around the original effort to recycle a garden into a new space. Five local flower societies have started gardens within Highline, and many individuals pay $40 per year for a community garden plot. Some people include the garden in their daily dog walk, and hundreds turn out for the annual summer time ice cream social. The garden’s beginnings Elda Gothke Behm was born in 1913 and raised on a farm near Wenatchee, Washington. She became a certified landscape designer in 1953 and moved to Burien, near SeaTac, in 1954. “Elda never met a plant she didn’t like,” Morgan reminisces as we wander through the Elda Behm Paradise Garden section of Highline. Plants flourished under her care — enough so that the Burien City Council and the City of SeaTac (yes, there’s a city as well as an airport with that name) agreed to develop 11 acres in North SeaTac Park into a public garden, starting with relocating Behm’s plants to save them from runway three. The Highline Botanical Garden Foundation was incorporated to oversee the garden. Volunteers worked with the Port of Seattle and the City of SeaTac from late 1999 into the spring of 2000 to move plants, trees and shrubs from Behm’s home into a holding area while gardeners prepared the soil. Behm favored native species, especially rhododendrons. The port supplied cranes and trucks to hoist conifers and other trees into their new home. The garden is planted on former residential land that the port had claimed in the 1950s, demolishing houses for a buffer zone around runway two. Morgan, who promotes interactive tours by asking questions and urging visitors to guess the answers, wants to know what we think they found when they started digging. “Water heaters!” she tells us triumphantly after we guess wrong a few times. Buried appliances had been left behind, which had to be cleared out. But some trees and shrubs had survived from the long ago houses, so those are incorporated in the garden today. Behm didn’t quietly slide into the background once her garden was moved. “She stayed on the board even in her nineties,” Morgan recalls. “She never gave up leadership.” Morgan remembers lots of arguments Behm had with the board over features she wanted added to the garden. Her last project was a shade garden featuring ferns, hostas, hellebores and her special favorite black trilliums. Behm died in 2008 at the age of 94. The Japanese garden While the thought of transplanting one entire garden is astonishing enough, in 2005 Highline relocated a second garden. The Seike family came from Japan , settling in Des Moines, Washington around 1920. The three sons all studied horticulture and helped run the family-owned Des Moines Nursery. They were forced into an internment camp during World War Two. Unlike most Japanese families, the Seikes were lucky in that a German-American family tended their plants during their internment and returned their property intact after the war. However, a much greater wartime loss befell them: their second son, Toll, died while fighting in France. Later, in conjunction with the 1962 Seattle World Fair, they hired a gardener to come from Hiroshima and build an authentic Japanese garden in Toll’s honor. Fast forward to 2004. Again, the Port of Seattle wanted more property. This time, the Seike family nursery was on the chopping block. The city of SeaTac found funding to move the miniature mountain and waterfall garden to Highline. Now generations who were born long after World War Two can sit by the pond and contemplate this family’s suffering and perseverance. The garden today Highline covers 11 acres today, with half developed and half still just dreams in gardeners’ heads. In addition to grants, donations and bequests, Highline raises money at its annual plant sales. Volunteer coordinator and gardener Jolly Eitelberg propagates the plants in the garden’s greenhouse. The garden is an extremely peaceful place, despite being so close to planes landing and taking off. Many out of town visitors with long layovers find their way to Highline, Morgan says, as it’s one of the closest attractions to the airport. But the airport has one unexpected effect on the garden — Highline can’t put koi in its ponds, because koi attract herons , which could get sucked into jet engines. Morgan is especially proud of the victory garden, modeled after those who tended to the home front during World War Two, when fresh vegetables supplemented ration cards. Highline donates green beans, tomatoes, zucchini and other vegetables grow in the victory garden to the Tukwila Food Bank. Morgan is a big believer in sharing food. She even takes our group into her plot in the community garden and offers us parsley, cucumbers and tomatoes. “Where do you think we get most of our volunteers?” she asks, a twinkle in her eye. “Most of our volunteers run red lights. And then when the judge says that will be 500 dollars they say they don’t have that kind of money.” They choose working in the garden as their community service so they can get outside, she says. Some like it so much they stay. After 25 years, the garden still inspires Morgan, who loves to share its message with visitors. To her, Highline is a triumph over what looked like insurmountable odds for Behm’s beautiful garden. She repeats herself several times over the course of our tour, driving her point home: “If you have something in your life that you think should be preserved or kept somehow, you can. If you gather people around you and keep pushing.” Images via Inhabitat

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Recycled botanical garden in Seattle brings visitors decades of joy

Geometric pavilion with an inverted living garden holds court in a public square in Annecy, France

September 27, 2019 by  
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Almost 10 years ago, New York-based Behin Ha Design Studio erected an incredible green-walled living pavilion made out of recycled milk crates in the heart of Governors Island. Now, the plant-loving designers are back at it, unveiling a beautiful, inverted garden pavilion in a public square in Annecy, France. Installed in the Notre Dame plaza in the old city center of Annecy, the 330-square-foot Living Pavilion is a modular system of dairy crates. Assembled in a three-sided geometric shape, the recycled milk crates serve as the framework for the inverted garden. The exterior shape of the Living Pavilion, with its hipped and gabled roof, was meant to pay homage to the historic buildings of Annecy. With three immense openings, visitors are invited to enter under the pavilion to enjoy the suspended, lush garden planted on the interior walls. Related: A tiny, 96-square-foot rustic pavilion brings the outdoors in The geometric design gives the structure the potential to become a public or private shelter that is open to fresh air yet protected from harsh elements. The crates that make up the structure were strategically planted with drought-tolerant Liriope plants, which are resilient to almost any type of climate and can naturally cool the interior. Like the original installation in Governors Island in 2010, the most recent version of the Living Pavilion uses multiple milk crates to create a planting system for the garden. The drought-tolerant plants are initially cultivated in the crates in an upright position. Once the vegetation has grown, the planted crates are then installed upside-down to form walls. At the end of the Annecy installation, the crates can be removed and cultivated in another environment. According to the designers, the modular system creates a full-circle lifecycle for the structure. The design ensures that the pavilion can be easily disassembled and reassembled in another location while protecting the plants during the transition, allowing for regeneration of the same pavilion year after year. + Behin Ha Design Studio Photography by Aurelien Vivier and Behin Ha via Behin Ha Design Studio

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Geometric pavilion with an inverted living garden holds court in a public square in Annecy, France

Engineers invent origami-inspired self-watering pots that are made from 100% recycled materials

August 26, 2019 by  
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The summer months are a wonderful time to go exploring unknown parts of the world, but traveling for weeks on end means certain death for most house plants, until now. A team of plant-loving engineers have designed an innovative self-watering plant pot. POTR Pots are flat pack plant pots designed to self-water plants and are made from 100% recycled materials . POTR Pots were invented by Scottish designers, Andrew Flynn and Martin Keane, who happen to also be serious plant lovers. According to Flynn and Keane, who have just recently kicked off a Kickstarter campaign featuring their innovative design, the prototype is the plant pot for the 21st century. Related: Recycling can get kids free books in southern Italy The team embarked on their invention by creating an eco-friendly design using 100% recycled materials, which can be recycled at the end of the pots’ life span. All of the materials used in the design, mainly recycled polypropylene , were sourced from nearby locations to reduce the project’s overall carbon footprint. Using recycled polypropylene means that the pots are not only eco-friendly , but incredibly flexible and durable. The pots won’t break into a million bits like regular clay pots if dropped. Additionally, the material allows for folding origami hinges , which enable the product to be flat-packed. To open the pots, just pull on the Bobbiny recycled cotton cord and the pot is ready for use. Before adding in the plant itself, two ends of the cord must be looped under the inner pot stand and  inserted into the plant’s soil. The cotton cord allows the plant to suck up water when thirsty. Besides being incredibly practical and user-friendly, the pots, which come in various sizes, are incredibly eco-friendly. According to the designers, the POTR pots have almost 100 times less CO2 than clay or concrete plant pots, due to the use of recycled materials as well as the flat-pack design which reduces transport costs. + POTR Pots Via BBC Images via POTR Pots

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Could the Florida Aquarium save ‘Americas Great Barrier Reef?’

August 26, 2019 by  
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Researchers at Tampa’s Florida Aquarium announced that they have managed to make a group of coral reproduce two days in a row. This is the first such successful attempt at Atlantic coral reproduction in a lab setting and could have important implications for saving barrier reefs. “Project Coral” is a program the aquarium designed in partnership with London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens . The objective: to create large coral egg deposits in a laboratory and ultimately repopulate the Florida Reef Tract. Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Florida’s coral reefs are the world’s third largest barrier reef ecosystem. This phenomenal system, often called “America’s Great Barrier Reef,” extends from St. Lucie Inlet, north of Miami, to the Dry Tortugas, which are west of the Florida Keys. Biscayne National Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary contain about two-thirds of the reef tract. But pollution , climate change and the orange sponge that invades the weakened reefs have destroyed much of the ecosystem. Can Project Coral heal the threatened reefs? “It’s pure excitement to be the first to achieve a breakthrough in the world,” Roger Germann, CEO of the Florida Aquarium, told CNN . “Our team of experts cracked the code … that gives hope to coral in the Florida Reef Tract and to coral in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans.” The researchers started working with Staghorn coral in 2014 but then shifted their concentration to pillar coral. Devastated by disease, pillar coral are now almost extinct . Unfortunately, the female and male clusters are too far apart to reproduce. The aquarium’s coral greenhouses use high-tech gear like LED technology and computerized systems to imitate the real reef ecosystem and send out signals to encourage reproduction. The aquarium has proven doubters wrong — it is possible to generate native Atlantic coral spawn in a laboratory. It’s still too early to determine how this controlled experiment will transfer to all the variables involved in repopulating a wild reef. But this success has spurred scientists’ positive attitudes about a happy future for both the reef and Florida’s tourism economy. Germann said, “Now there really is hope … I think we can save it.” Via CNN Image via National Park Service

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Could the Florida Aquarium save ‘Americas Great Barrier Reef?’

G7 summit: Fashion companies make a pact to protect the planet

August 26, 2019 by  
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Known as The Fashion Pact, a group of 32 major luxury brands, labels and companies, such as Adidas, Burberry, Kering, Hermes, Nike, Prada and Puma, shared its ideas to improve sustainability in the fashion industry at the G7 summit from August 24 to 26. While addressing French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, some of the pact’s members said they would focus on using other options in their work in order to protect forests and minimize plastic usage. Related: Zara pledges 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025 At the summit, Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti said, “We know that one company cannot solve the environmental challenges facing our planet alone, and we believe in the power of collaboration to drive real change.” Some of the pact’s ideas include pledging to 100 percent renewable energy for operations by 2030; removing microfiber pollution; boosting biodiversity and creating eco-friendly agricultural, mining and forestry processes; and cutting back on single-use plastics in packaging by 2030. The fashion industry initiative came to fruition in early 2019, when Macron asked François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Kering Group, which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, to form a coalition that discusses how the industry’s current practices impact the environment . Pinault talked about his ideas for the coalition at the Copenhagen fashion summit in May, according to The Guardian . “This has nothing to do with competition,” he told delegates at the time. “It’s a matter of leadership. Alone it is useless, you have to work with your peers. We might not succeed, but we will achieve more than not doing anything.” Several key fashion companies have been criticized for not addressing recent wildfires in the Amazon rainforest , despite donating millions of euros toward the restoration of the Notre Dame. Macron described the situation in the Amazon as an international crisis on Friday and said he wanted it to be addressed as a key issue at the 45th G7 summit. Via The Guardian and Reuters Image via Tokatlian

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G7 summit: Fashion companies make a pact to protect the planet

Architects envision a 3D-printed sanctuary tower for Monarch Butterfly

July 1, 2019 by  
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New York City-based design firm, Terreform ONE has unveiled a stunning design concept for an urban Monarch Butterfly sanctuary set in the bustling Big Apple. The incredible project envisions an eight-story commercial building clad in a “vertical meadow” facade made out of 3D-printed carbon components, designed to nourish butterflies. Known for their innovative portfolio that focuses on ecological urban planning, Terreform One has outdone themselves this time around, all in the name of protecting the Monarch Butterfly , which is dying off at catastrophic rates. Related: Old soap factory home features a “terrarium” room that opens up to the Manhattan sky Slated for a new commercial construction in Nolita, NYC, the eight-story, 30,000 square-feet tower would be home to retail and office space on the inside. However, the exterior facade would be a large-scale Lepidoptera terrarium covered in rich vegetation to create a vibrant Monarch Butterfly sanctuary. The pioneering design would feature a 3D-printed facade with a dual skin that would weave butterfly conservation strategies through the building as well as its facade and roof. The interior would also feature a monarch atrium, creating an ecological biome geared to foster an idyllic example of how people, plants and butterflies can coexist in urban environments. The building’s grid-like facade would be wrapped with glass and “pillows” of ETFE foil in order to create a base for growing a three-foot by 70-foot “ vertical meadow ” that will be planted with milkweed vines and flowering nectar plants chosen specifically to nourish butterflies at each stage of their life cycle. The butterfly sanctuary would have two strategies, the first would be to provide a breeding ground and stopover habitat for wild monarchs on the roof and rear facade. The second goal would be to use the semi-enclosed colonies in the atrium and street side double-skin facade as an incubator of sorts to grow  monarchs. The young insects born on site will have fluid access to join the wild population, in hopes of increasing the Monarch’s overall population numbers. + Terreform ONE Via Archinect Images via Mitchell Joachim of Terreform ONE

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Architects envision a 3D-printed sanctuary tower for Monarch Butterfly

Carsten Hller’s giant spiraling slides explore emotional links between people and plants

March 12, 2018 by  
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German artist Carsten Höller recently announced plans to build two giant spiraling slides in Florence, Italy – and the installation will research the emotional link between people and plants. The Florence Experiment invites visitors to zip through two 65-foot-high slides with a plant in hand. At the bottom, scientists will be on hand to test the plants to see if they register the emotions of the person holding them. Höller, who has a PhD in plant pathology, has often used his signature art medium to make serious commentary on our society. For his latest experiment, the artist will be working with Professor Stefano Mancuso to demonstrate how human emotions can affect plants in an effort to encourage more empathy for the vegetation around us. Related: Mesmerizing light installation is powered by visitors’ collective heartbeat The slides will be installed in the beautiful Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, as part of a larger exhibition. Visitors to the Renaissance palace can board a slide from the second-floor terrace, where they will be handed a plant. After the fun twisty ride, the plants will be taken to the basement were a laboratory has been set up to test if any of the plants have been affected by the emotions of the humans as they slide down. According to the artists, the objective is not only to investigate the effect on the plants, but also to encourage people to be more empathetic to the botanical world around them. In addition to the slides, a second plant research installation will set up two cinemas in the lab: one showing comedy films while the other shows horror films. The experiment, organized by Höller and Mancuso, will record the audience’s reaction to the two films. These “volatile chemical compounds” will then be piped through tubes to the exterior of the palace in an effort to affect the climbing wisteria plants on the building’s facade. The researchers will study the vines’ growth over the course of the installation to see how it responds to the fear or delight of the audience. A live “plant graph” of the wisteria’s growth, based on these emotions, will be visible from the street. “Palazzo Strozzi will become a site of real contemporary experimentation and reflection, turning an architectural Renaissance masterpiece into a workshop of dialogue between art and science,” said curator, Galansino. Via Dezeen Renderings by Michele Giuseppe Onali

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Carsten Hller’s giant spiraling slides explore emotional links between people and plants

Green walls are great, but they need to work efficiently

March 1, 2018 by  
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You may have heard about green walls or even seen a few. Also called living walls , live walls, eco-walls and vertical gardens , these structures are essentially walls covered in vertically grown plants, and they can appear either inside or outside. The idea has been around for a while, and it’s really caught on lately due to their environmental and health benefits, as well as appealing aesthetics. But not all green walls are made equal. Read on to learn how a green wall should be designed in order to be useful and friendly to the environment. How Do They Work? There are several types of green walls. Some might consider regular walls covered in ivy as a green wall, while others would limit the definition to walls specifically designed to hold vegetation. The latter type can be constructed in various ways . They might consist of panels with pre-planted vegetation, or replaceable trays that fit into slots in the wall, enabling easy removal if necessary. Vertical gardens also vary in terms of how they function. The simpler models require hand watering, while others have self-watering pipe systems. Many green walls rely on hydroponic systems that use drip irrigation. Based on the desired aesthetics and effects, you might choose different types of plants. You can include many varieties of plants, including groundcover, ferns, shrubs, flowers and more. Benefits Green walls have become popular in urban areas where people want to make their space greener but don’t have a lot of room to do so. Vertical gardens ensure the benefits of green space without taking up too much space. They also improve air quality, which is advantageous for people as well as animals and the overall environment. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. They also filter out various contaminants, creating cleaner air, and can remove up 87 percent of airborne toxins inside a home within just 24 hours. This helps people breathe easier, especially indoors where air quality is notoriously bad. Ecowalls can reduce the urban heat-island effect and improve thermal insulation, reducing a building’s energy costs. They can also absorb noise and provide mental health benefits. Research has shown that having plants around can reduce stress and increase productivity by up to 15 percent. Challenges Critics have identified several potential issues with green walls. If the designer doesn’t adequately plan for their project, they say, the costs might outweigh the benefits. Maintaining a green wall requires more work and resources than a regular wall, especially if it doesn’t have a self-watering system. You’ll have to manually water the plants, and even with a self-watering system, the plants will need care at some point. Green walls typically require large amounts of water, which can be unsustainable if supplies are low and the wall isn’t equipped with water recycling equipment. Operating a living wall also requires energy. Producing this energy can have a negative impact on the environment if derived from fossil fuels. How to Make a Green Wall More Efficient A green wall’s efficacy depends on how it’s constructed, operated and maintained. Drip irrigation systems appear in walls that use panels and hydroponic systems, while walls with replaceable trays use tank systems. Drip irrigation tubing is typically about 85 percent more efficient than tank systems. They connect to the building’s plumbing system, while tray systems require manual watering. Drip irrigation systems can also automatically recycle water. You could use recycled water in a tank system from an air conditioning system or another source, but you’d have to do so manually. Because tray systems require more water and use soil, they can attract bugs and form mold, fungus and even introduce pathogens. Due to this possibility, they don’t comply with strict health, safety and hygiene codes in places such as healthcare facilities. These buildings would need to use a hydroponic system. For these reasons, the soil in tray systems must be replaced about every month, which can be costly. Panel systems don’t require this and therefore don’t need as much maintenance. Another factor that can impact a green wall’s efficiency is the type of vegetation with which it is populated. Drought-resistant and local plants need less water than other types of vegetation, so they’re more water-efficient. Plants also, of course, require sunlight. Placing a living wall in an area with a lot of natural light will reduce the amount of artificial light needed and, therefore, the amount of energy it requires. The Importance of Truly Green Green Walls For a green wall to be truly beneficial, you need to use an efficient watering system, put it in the proper place (with ample natural light), and plant vegetation that’s easy to maintain and requires minimal irrigation. Anyone interested to install a green wall, as well as the architects and engineers in charge of designing them, ought to consider the efficiency of the system in addition to their benefits and aesthetics. Photos via Depositphotos , Scott Webb on Unsplash , Mike.dixon.design  via Wikimedia Commons , Kaldari via Wikimedia Commons , AlejandroOrmad via Wikimedia Commons , and Terry Robinson via Wikimedia Commons

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Green walls are great, but they need to work efficiently

World’s largest botanical garden to bloom in the desert of Oman

November 15, 2017 by  
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Perhaps the dry desert landscape of Oman may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of lush forests, but the Arabian nation is getting a massive infusion of greenery with the world’s largest botanical garden . Showcasing the country’s rich bio-diversity, the Oman Botanic Garden – designed by Arup, Grimshaw and Haley Sharpe Design – will be a whopping 1,037 acres of land filled with native flora, with two beautiful biomes housing the country’s most unique plant species. Located in the foothills of the Al Hajar Mountains in the Sultanate of Oman, the botanical garden’s site is one of the few locations in the world where the ancient sea bed is still visible after the landscape was elevated by tectonic activity. Working with this unique landscape, the architects designed a complex that would blend into the Mars-esque environment. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: 7 best botanical gardens from around the world Visitors to the gardens will enjoy open walkways that run through the undulating landscape, winding through the wadis, mountains and desert plains as they enjoy the impressive botanic diversity. Inside the two biomes, which house the most unique or sensitive flora, the interior environments were carefully designed to mimic the natural temperature and humidity of the plants’ native climate. Along with the visitors center, the complex will have additional spaces for education and research facilities dedicated to protecting the region’s ample bio-diversity. The garden’s buildings and the landscape architecture were all designed to meet the standards of LEED Platinum . Making the design sustainable was quite a challenge given the region’s water scarcity. Thanks to advanced systems, the entire complex will operate with a grey water irrigation system that works in collaboration with sustainably-sourced water. + Arup + Grimshaw + Haley Sharpe Design Via World Architecture News

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World’s largest botanical garden to bloom in the desert of Oman

Hurricane Maria ravaged the only tropical rainforest in the United States

September 28, 2017 by  
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El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest managed by the United States Forest Service, suffered major damage as Hurricane Maria bore down on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm. While Washington faces criticism for its apparently lackluster response to the unfolding humanitarian disaster , scientists are beginning to turn their attention to the ecological devastation wrought by the powerful hurricane. Bill McDowell, an ecologist at the University of New Hampshire who led research missions in El Yunque for decades, described the national forest and center for scientific research as “devastated.” Still, life will find a way and El Yunque, adapted for the hurricane-prone Caribbean, is expected to endure, offering scientists a glimpse into the ecological recovery process. El Yunque National Forest covers nearly 30,000 acres in the northeast region of Puerto Rico and contains a wide range of habitat, from humid lowland rainforests to cool, cloud forests in the Luquillo Mountains. El Yunque is home to sixteen species of coqui frogs , the only species of native parrot in Puerto Rico, and a wide variety of epiphytes, which survive by pulling water from the air in the chilly upland dwarf forests. The National Forest is also known for its uniquely preserved petroglyphs by the indigenous Taíno people. Related: Scientists discover the Amazon forest sets off its own rainy season While El Yunque and similar forests in the region have evolved to cope with a sometimes-volatile climate , the unique power of Hurricane Maria presents an unprecedented challenge for the ecosystem . “From a science perspective, this is a test of how resilient the forests and streams are,” said Alan Covich, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Georgia who has studied El Yunque for decades. “I think the biggest question is the intensity of the disturbance and the cumulative effect of two [major hurricanes]. It’s a situation that has taken a century to develop.” Still, researchers are optimistic about the forest’s future. “We think things are pretty resilient and will come back within weeks and months, like they did after Hugo,” said Covich. “Six to 12 months from now, the forest will be in fine shape.” However, Covich noted that in the wake of such a disruptive event, different organisms may emerge as dominant species than before the storm. In addition to its role as an ecological and scientific hotspot, El Yunque has historically supported the people of Puerto Rico in critical ways. After hurricanes , the forest typically prevents debris and landslides from contaminating the headwaters of the Loquillo Mountains. While Puerto Ricans wait for relief from FEMA, El Yunque National Forest protects the much-needed sources of clean drinking water that sustain the population. Via Earther Images via  Omar Gutiérrez del Arroyo Santiago/Earther

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Hurricane Maria ravaged the only tropical rainforest in the United States

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