Severe droughts will occur in the future on Vancouver Island
According to new research, Vancouver Island is facing more severe droughts than any in the past 350 years.
Using data collected from trees, scientists are able to predict what is going to happen in the future.
The study suggests droughts will intensify over the next few decades.
The forests covering much of the southern Vancouver Island not only provide shade and shelter.
They tell stories.
Dr. Dan Smith is a professor of geology at the University of Victoria.
“It’s an 800 year old piece of yellow cedar.
You can see the markings here, the different centuries involved.”
Researchers collected tree-ring data from old-growth forests in three watersheds on Vancouver Island, including the Chemainus watershed and one in the Interior.
They studied two species of trees: the mountain hemlock and the sub-alpine firs.
Smith says these trees predict droughts going back to the 1600’s.
“The trees in the stories in our research are telling us that about every 21 years or so that we get extremely low water runoff in these streams.
And that’s a reflection of the winter snowpak as well as high warm temperatures in the summer months.”
That’s a concern as the climate is changing.
Droughts are the new normal.
2015 stands as the driest year on record.
Crews fought a record number of forest fires last year on Vancouver Island.
Donna MacPherson with the Coastal Fire Centre says officials are hoping for a cooler summer.
“At this stage we’ve had seven fires so far
And normally we have about 12.
Last year at this date we had six fires.
We’re kind of on par in a lot of ways.”
So far this spring, many days felt like summer instead with record breaking heat.
A trend that is continuing according to Smith.
“I think the warning signs are there that we’re going to see.
We’re going to get drought years that are exponentially greater than the ones we’ve got, those extreme drought flow years.”
That means rivers that need rescuing will increase over the next few decades.
Causing stress for the fish that live in the them, and the communities that rely on them.