As Island drought intensifies, tree experts warn of stress

As Island drought intensifies, tree experts warn of stress
CHEK

Fall colours are in full force on trees across Vancouver Island but experts say this early in the season that’s actually a warning sign due to the current drought.

“They’re getting dried out and that’s inducing that fall colour as a result of the stress rather than a more natural progression to the winter,” said Dan Sharp, Manager with Davey Tree Expert Co.

And Sharp says that stress can cause some trees to become susceptible to bigger threats.

“They’re suddenly going to get attacked by bugs that they would normally have been able to fight off or other pathogens,” he said.  “And you’ll just generally have more unhealthy trees when they’re not getting the water that they need.”

Since August 1 Victoria has only seen 2mm of rain. By the end of October it would normally be at 143mm over those three months. It’s a story being repeated in communities across the island, even in Campbell River which has seen just a tiny fraction of its usual rainfall.

READ MORE: Rainfall, drought and wildfires by the numbers in British Columbia

The entire island is now at a drought level 5, the highest rating the province has. That means impacts to the environment are certain and all efforts should be made to conserve water.

READ MORE: Drought prompts request for Metro Vancouver residents to take shorter showers

But there are some promising signs in the forecast with weather experts predicting a return to rain before the end of the month.

“It’s hard to look in my crystal ball to see how much we’ll actually get but we’re looking at possibly seeing some storms roll back in late next week,” said Derek Lee, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

With such dry soil there’s a chance that rain could increase runoff and lead to flooding, and if wind comes with it trees could be in trouble too.

“The parched, desecrated soil isn’t able to really take in that water as quickly so you end up with tree roots essentially being held up by mud rather than good sturdy soil,” said Sharp.

At least for the next week though Vancouver Island is set to remain dry and hot, with more record-breaking temperatures anticipated in the days ahead.

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April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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