Heat wave hurting British Columbia’s environment, especially trees

Heat wave hurting British Columbia's environment, especially trees
WatchThis week's heat wave that smashed all-time records is not only having an impact on people, but a dramatic impact on the environment

As the heat wave loosens its grip on the province, hazy skies are creeping in over the ocean, the result of wildfires burning out of control in California.

On northern Vancouver Island, a storm moved in overnight resulting in seven fires.

It’s a reminder of how tinder-dry the conditions are in forests, with the Island’s rating at high to extreme, according to Dorthe Jakobsen with the Coastal Fire Centre in Parksville.

“This heat wave is unprecedented and it’s caused the vegetation in our forests to dry out really really quickly. We moved through all the fire danger ratings very very quickly. And we are now at high to extreme.”

Elsewhere, City of Victoria crew carted away the remains of a large tree on Wednesday after it collapsed in the middle of Foul Bay Road.

Resident Rob Attwell said he heard a loud noise around midnight.

“I was sitting in my living room last night reading, and just heard a massive crack and this tree collapsed. Unfortunately, it’s a beautiful old oak tree that came down across the road.”

More trees are showing the impact of heat, and drought, according to Bartlett Tree Experts arborist Trevor Coey.

“We are getting these blasts of summer that are causing a lot of stress to different plants that just are not used to it.”

Coey says they are seeing evidence of stress on drought-tolerant species such as Garry oaks.

“The discolour of the leaves, drying out, wilting, you know, change in colour,” he said. “The die back is something that usually comes on over long durations of drought stress. And then the limb drop in oaks is probably the obvious and most extreme result of the temperatures.”

Linda Petit, head gardener at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, couldn’t believe what she saw in the gardens following days of extreme heat.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Petit. “Plants that have been in the ground for 25 years are suffering.”

With more frequent droughts, and heat waves occurring and likely to occur in the future, some of the iconic species on B.C.’s coast may be lost.

“We have summer drought now, that is the norm,” Petit said. “Then we get the winter rains. Some plants can adapt quite well and others suffer. Plants that need moisture all summer long, like the western red cedar, definitely are suffering.”

[email protected]

READ MORE: Unprecedented Heatwave: Hottest day ever recorded on Vancouver Island


Mary GriffinMary Griffin

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!