Running with Trees

Running with Trees directly and poetically explores trees – orchards- seasonality in relation to climate change and global C02 starting from the embodied act of breathing.

What can we learn listening to our own breath and reflecting on our relationship to trees as we run through the park? I will invite participants to reflect on these relationships as we run or walk together. The project will also encourage participants to link to the other FLOW project events & the ROOTSTOCK event later in the year.

I’m offering a run in the Riverside Valley Park for different groups that can be at different times of day or week to suit groups. It is suitable especially for couch to 5km/ beginners/improvers.  The run I have devised so far is 3.5km along the Exe Riverside Valley Park, and this can be adapted to suit groups and have different start points.

The first run takes place on 28 June at 6.30pm meet outside the Harvester Malt House, Exeter EX2 8BP (See Running with Trees event for more info.



I have been working with Dr Tom Powell in the School of Earth Sciences at Exeter University to create a run that explores the connection between breathing – trees – carbon – climate change. In 2015 a Met Office researcher introduced me to the Keeling Curve which shows the annual fluctuation of carbon levels globally as measured in Hawaii.

Carbon in the atmosphere is now peaking at over 400ppm (parts per million). 400 ppm hasn’t been seen in almost ONE MILLION YEARS.   We have increased atmospheric CO2 by 100 ppm in 60 years. The last time earth saw a 100 ppm increase it took 40,000 years.

I was immediately struck by the annual fluctuation visible in the graphs. this is caused by deciduous trees and plants (ie that gain leaf cover in spring/summer and shed leaves in winter) taking in carbon over the summer months and releasing carbon over the winter months creating a wider global seasonal rhthmn.

I took a leaf from the Devonshire Quarrenden apple tree (origin Exeter) to the lab and Tom helped me look for the stomata, the breathing apparatus for the leaf, located on the underside. Here is a picture of the apple leaf taken down the microscope:


At the same time I looked at the breathing system of humans and the exchange of carbon and oxygen that occurs in the lungs. Oxygen passes through the lung walls and it arrives into some of the millions of tiny sacs called alveoli. Oxygen passes out of the air into the blood, and carbon dioxide passes out of the blood into the air in the alveoli.


Satellite data mapping released by NASA show the annual bud burst in trees across the It looks like the Earth has a pair of lungs — inhaling for one half the year and breathing out for the other.

The burning of fossil fuels the earth is releasing more carbon each year than it breathes in – its like a body trying to catch its breath.

I wanted to explore these themes in my residency and make the link between the local and global carbon cycles, the individual and the wider ecosystem. If you would like a copy of the run script please get in touch.