Unrelenting Drought Takes Toll on Nation’s Urban Trees

Lincoln, NE (July 26, 2012) – Nearly 54% of the country is in moderate or worse drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, setting a record for the fourth straight week. Besides the expected increase in food prices (and insects), the survival of millions of trees is at stake.

Prolonged periods of stress slow and reduce tree growth, and make them susceptible to disease.  In some cases, young, parched trees are dying.  These urban trees remove pollution, conserve energy, and have a net cooling effect that rivals air conditioners.  Here’s a roundup from across the Midwest and elsewhere on efforts to mitigate the impact of record-breaking heat and drought on hard-working street trees.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared a total of 1,234, out of 3033, counties to be disaster areas as a result of the drought.  Most of the intensification of drought is across the Midwest, including Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Nebraska. Here are the details:

Buffalo, NY (July 14, 2012) – With five inches less rain than average this year and down two inches since June, Buffalo’s drought means trees are losing leaves and prematurely changing color, and placing huge demands on municipal water systems. There is also risk of uncontrolled fires. More

Chicago, IL – (July 24, 2012) – The city has turned to crowdsourcing to help water 10,000 young trees in their park system.  The Chicago Park District and Friends of the Parks don’t have the man power or equipment to keep all the trees watered, so they sent out a plea to local residents imploring them to pitch in and water trees in their local parks.  Of the 250,000 trees under the park district’s care, 10,000 were planted within the past three years, making them more susceptible to heat and drought, as well as disease when they are stressed.  More.  And, “Parched Parkway Trees Could Use a Drink”

Indianapolis, IN (July 22, 2102) Indiana’s drought has trudged on since May—and could last until October.  While lawns can rebound, trees are taking a hit. Drought is expected to have a lasting effect on the city’s trees—a propensity for disease and, long term, death.  More

Rockford, IL (July 24, 2012) The Rockford Park District began a citywide tree hydration and education program July 23 in an effort to keep community plants and trees thriving during drought conditions. They’re using Treegator bags, drop irrigation systems, and early morning watering. More

Related Resources
U.S. Drought Monitor
Drought Could Have lasting Effect on Trees