UConn Stormwise Program Helping to Build Stronger Trees

Storrs, CT (February 18, 2014) – In Connecticut, about 80% to 90% of power outages during storms are caused by trees that fail. In recent significant storms, Connecticut lost an estimated nearly 2% of its trees and, subsequently, its power. Downed trees as a result of storms can knock down power lines and block transportation corridors, so scientists at UConn are studying why trees fail, and how they can be made stronger.

Downed_trees_blocking_road_after_October_2011_nor'easter,_Granby,_CTMore information is needed about why trees fail–How did they fail? Where did they fail? What kind of tree was it? Was it surrounded by neighbors? Was it all alone? Did it have root rot? According to researcher UConn Mark Rudnicki, this basic information about tree failure was not being collected.

Through a program called Stormwise, a tree and forest management program at UConn, scientist are trying to determine why a tree fails, how failure could be prevented, and how to build stronger trees.

Stormwise uses innovative tree management measures to preserve the forest while avoiding outages and property damage. UConn’s School of Engineering is involved with the overall effort, as well with their development of a model that predicts storm related outages.

A major emphasis of Stormwise is getting the right tree in the right place, including attention to species selection and tree placement. According to UConn research, desirable trees, like sugar maple and hickory, are a good choice to keep when thinning the forest. Native ash trees, however, are less desirable because the ongoing invasion of the emerald ash borer. Shorter trees are best for under or near power lines.

Another component of Stormwise management is to maximize growing conditions. Although it may seem counter intuitive, research found that the way to help a tree withstand the stronger winds of a storm is to expose it to wind every day. This wind firmness characteristic develops best in an area that is not too dense with trees.

When it comes to tree trimming, Stormwise suggest concentrating on the health of whole trees, rather than just on branches. The program promotes managing the area farther back from the power lines (up to 100 feet) in an effort to enhance and strengthen selected trees that are within reach of the lines.

As part of the Stormwise program, UConn is also developing real-time predictive computer models to forecast the storm damage and its connection to power outages. And through a USDA Forest Service grant will set up demonstration sites in each of Connecticut’s eight counties.

Source: Researchers manage trees to reduce power failures (UConn)

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