Earth Day 2020: Climate Change Actions

In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, we pay thoughtful tribute on this Earth day.  With humanity on pause, and in global lockdown, we look at the ways that nature is restoring and we rejoice at the reduction of air pollution, the clearing of rivers and water systems, the freeing up of wildlife, the joyful song of birds against the backdrop of quietening cities; and hope that these positive results may lead the way to shifts in green policies.

A reminder: “The Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.” —John Paul II

The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary.

To hear the messages from participants check out the live transmission here.

With climate change action in the forefront of this year’s theme, i post two examples of plants which play prominent carbon sequestering roles in gardens here in the Cape.  Hubby, the gardener in the family commits to planting these species and has planted over 30 shrubs in the past few years and continues to propagate more slips.

The first is Spekboom, (Portulacaria afra); also known as Porkbush has the ability to absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than most other plants and it does so particularly efficiently. A stand of Porkbush consequently has the ability to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than an equal amount of deciduous forest.

A tough succulent plant using CAM (Crassulacean acid metabolism which minimises photorespiration and saves water by separating these steps in time, between night and day.

The second, below – is the Jade Plant (Crassula ovata) another hardy drought resistant shrub.

“Crassulas have a special way of reducing water loss from their leaves without limiting their ability to photosynthesise, known as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM. All plants need CO2 (carbon dioxide) for photosynthesis. Most plants take in CO2 during daylight hours through their stomata (pores in the leaves) and can’t avoid losing water at the same time through these open pores. In Crassula the stomata are closed during the day but open at night when the CO2 taken in is stored in the form of organic crassulacean acids. During the day, these acids are broken down and the CO2 released is re-used in the photosynthetic process. In this way they lose much less water yet can photosyntesise normally during the daylight hours. Furthermore, during extremely dry periods they won’t even open their stomata at night, and will re-cycle the CO2 within the cells. They won’t be able to grow at all but the cells will be kept healthy – this is known as CAM-idling.

In addition to being a CAM plant, and having succulent water-storing stems, and leaves and swollen roots that give it the ability to survive droughts, this crassula can also survive being grazed, trodden on or knocked over, as it is able to root from any piece of stem, even a single leaf.

The flowers attract bees, wasps, flies, beetles and butterflies. The fine dust-like seed is dispersed by the wind. Tortoises love the leaves but rarely devour them completely. Any discarded leaves left around the foot of the plant send down roots and grow into new plants. The stems also make handy bases for wasps to build their nests.” Information from Plantz Africa


Using CAM photosynthesis these plants have a special way of reducing water loss from their leaves while sequestering CO2.

7 thoughts on “Earth Day 2020: Climate Change Actions

  1. We have both plants growing in abundance in our garden – and doing particularly well after the long period of drought. Your post is interesting and provides food for thought.

  2. Well I am happy to learn all this from you today as I have several Jade trees, though they never flower here as I guess it is not hot enough. I shall look out for the Spekboom now too!

  3. Planting more natives is definitely a good idea for so many reasons. The area in which I live has been reforested since the 50s, and it is quite amazing to see how the trees affect our microclimate, cooling in summer and less wind damage and flooding. More trees, the better, IMO!

    1. That’s heartening to know the beneficial effects and isn’t it a good sign to see the various tree planting projects round the world? Also recently I picked up on the publicity for the preservation of peat /bog lands.

  4. Indeed they are wonderful plants – and spekboom is edible/tasty too with a mild lemony flavour – good to add to salads! Thanks for sharing . . . and stay well!

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