Trees struggle with changing climate

Forests are in the process of re-organizing themselves to a new set of conditions.

About 15 years ago, while kayaking in the Gulf Islands, I noticed that both young and old Arbutus trees appeared to be dying. A forest pathologist suggested that due to changing temperatures the Arbutus had likely become more susceptible to a fungus which was causing mortality as evidenced by blackened foliage.

Locally, Arbutus are at the northernmost limit of their natural range, which extends to southern California, and so are especially sensitive to change. Now, after having experienced three summers of drought, Western red cedar trees are in the process of adapting.

Cedars prefer moist soil conditions and some are showing signs of stress, especially along harsh, south-facing roadside edges, where drought-like conditions already existed. Some household hedges are also showing signs of moisture stress. With more intense disturbances during winter, strong winds, wet snow and heavy rains have caused physical damage to trees. Whole trees, tops and branches have come down, particularly over the past few winters.

We can likely expect another summer of drier than usual conditions coming up, so remember to water your trees, especially those cedars.

Tom Whitfield RPF (Ret.)

Qualicum Beach

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