Trees & Climate Change
July 20, 2006
I’m sure you have noticed our climate changing over the last 10 years. We had a 10-year drought and since then our weather patterns have changed dramatically. In 1998 one hundred mile per hour gusts of sustained wind for 14 hours! Weeks of heavy rain! In 1999, 3 inches of snow on the Valley floor, and chilling weather down to 10° Fahrenheit for weeks. These changes have altered the survival rate of our trees. Our indigenous trees are not accustomed to living with such radical weather patterns.
Which brings me to the more recent winters, the last two in particular. In two years our rainfall has been in some places 70 inches. Typically the average rainfall for a two-year time frame is 28 inches. Such climatic changes have affected the growth patterns of our trees in several ways.
- Above ground growth - many types of trees growing 1 foot per year at 14 inches of rain fall will grow 3 to 5 times in height, length of sides and limb weight. Usually the limb wood will not be able to keep up with the tip and leaf weight in tensile strength. This often causes structural failure, sometimes in the most unwanted places. What looks like healthy growth to the untrained eye may be a disaster waiting to happen. Excessive leaf and limb weight will cause the tree to fail. To solve this problem it is imperative to properly trim trees to avoid falling limbs and total tree failure.
- Insect Infestation - Excessive rains also brings excessive growth in insect infestations such as bees, larva, boring insects, moth larva and the like. When we factor in hot and cold temperatures along with the rain in late spring we add molds and fungus to the equation.
- Roots - The roots of our trees especially the trees indigenous to the previous climate we were living in, are not accustomed to this type of moisture, molds and fungi, not only have a profound effect on leaf growth but live in the soil as well. These underground fungi have a ravenous appetite for the feeder roots. These roots exist usually in the first four feet of soil under the drip line of the tree. Some trees’ root systems extend out many times their length past the end of the limbs. Also our clay soil holds moisture much longer than sandy soil. This overly moist condition has a tendency to rot the small roots that range in size from pencil lead to the thickness of a hair strand. Watering your lawn around trees at this point in time is not a good idea. The tree roots, especially the Oaks need to dry out for a time before watering should resume. Sometimes it’s a hard choice to make - Wow! Do I want a thick, lush lawn or do I want to preserve my 300 - 400 year old Oak trees in my front yard, that are worth $25,000.00 each? Santa Ynez Valley Tree Care has solutions for these problems and questions. More often than not I let my clients know that they need to pull back their watering systems to a range, which will not be near their trees.
Once again, the current changes in weather are causing excessive tree growth and eventually death to the tree. Many trees are growing so fast they cannot stand under their own weight and are pulling themselves apart while others are dying from root decay.
After spending 40 years in the climbing industry in many different climates and elevations, watching weather patterns has become a habit for me. Santa Ynez Valley Tree Care has the experience and technology to accurately assess these issues that are a part of all our lives today. Because you see, we live in Santa Ynez and we deal with the same concerns about our trees that all others deal with here in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Most tree companies only deal with the above ground trimming, and most of them do not realize the importance of the leaves to the roots. Defoliation - (removal of leaves) is one of the major causes of tree death. Leaves transfer sugar and starch to the root systems to strengthen them. If they are already weak, removing too many leaves in the wrong areas of the tree could cause and often does cause death. Just because a tree company has a contractors’ license does not mean they are aware of these facts. The information Santa Ynez Valley Tree Care provides is backed up by scientific facts from the International Society of Arboriculture. Studying tree growth has been their job for 80 years.
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