Helping Street Trees Weather Drought

College Park, MD (July 15, 2013) – In June, Wichita reported 10,000 urban trees dead as a result of drought. Indiana’s trees are still suffering after last year’s long drought and 100-degree days. The summer of 2012 was one of the worst droughts in 50 years. Recent research shows trees feel the drought—and suffer. A team of French scientists have captured the sound that trees make, their “cry for help,” when they are parched and in need of water. With another season of dry weather likely for trees in many communities, here’s a roundup of tools for managing drought stress on urban trees.

drought and trees under stressUnfortunately, trees may already be under severe trauma from drought before they show it in their leaves, which begin to wilt or yellow, in their roots, or in other signs of distress. By then, the affects of prolonged and severe drought make trees more vulnerable and susceptible to both disease and pests.

Like humans with a healthy immune system, healthy trees can fight off invaders, but not when they are weakened. Here’s  more on how researchers are acoustically measuring the impact of drought on trees and what it means: Trees Call for Help—And Now Scientists Can Understand.

Drought stress is an especially serious condition for urban trees, which must content with increasingly hotter and dryer conditions each year. The urban heat island effect produces much higher temperatures in cities than their suburban and rural counterparts. And street trees also often face poorer or compacted soils, poor drainage, contaminants such as salt, oils, and pet waste, a variety of pests, and root and trunk damage from construction, cars, and sidewalks.

Managing Drought Stress on Urban Trees,” Tree Care Industry Magazine, explains just what happens when a tree is in distress as a result of drought, and appropriate treatments for a variety of symptoms. And from the City of Atlanta, “Drought and Urban Trees,” presents a few “do’s and don’ts” for prevention and care of urban trees under drought conditions.

When it comes to watering, check out three great ideas for keeping trees appropriately watered during the summer or other dry season:

  1. Keeping Trees Watered: Dealing with Drought and Water Restrictions (Trees Atlanta) – Trees Atlanta, in partnership with the city’s Department of Watershed Management, recycles the water flushed daily from fire hydrants to soak 3,000 downtown trees and hundreds in surrounding neighborhoods.
  2. Keeping Trees Watered: Volunteer Mobilization (Casey Trees) – Utilizing an extensive tree inventory and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, Casey Trees has created an efficient method for mobilizing volunteers to install Ooze Tubes to water trees during the summer.
  3. Keeping Trees Watered: NeighborWoods Youth (Keep Indianapolis Beautiful) – A Youth Tree Team helps maintain the trees planted each year on public lands such as schools, parks, greenways and along highways. Using water donated by the local water company, the Youth Tree Team waters 500 trees each week during spring, summer and fall seasons.

Finally, visit the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center website for drought monitoring information.