WATCH: As we make our way through the first week of December, summer may seem like a faded memory. But there is evidence of the damage that the hot, dry season this year caused to Vancouver Island’s trees. Arborists say many of our native species – western red cedars, Douglas fir and arbutus – are now dying. Kendall Hanson reports.
On his four-acre property south of Nanaimo, Garry Frang is felling some dead western red cedars.
He says most of the cedars on his lot are dying.
“I first noticed this three years ago,” said Frang. “The ends of the leaves were starting to turn brown and I thought lack of water.”
Whatever’s claimed the trees has impacted the small ones most.
“The long hot summers we’ve been having you can tell it’s stressing the trees,” said Frang. “The bigger ones are fine but some of those have powder post beetle which could be climate-related too.”
And it’s not just Frang who’s been seeing the die off. Arborists say they’ve been seeing it all over eastern Vancouver Island.
“I notice a lot of the Western Red Cedars have been dying off at the edge of fields,” said Chris Adair of Adair Tree Service. “A lot of them are dying off because of the hot dry summers we’re getting especially out here where we’re used to getting a lot of moisture.”
The rainfall totals of May through September an example of just how little rain Vancouver Island has been getting. It’s a drying and a hotter trend that’s been going on for years.
“The growth rings on trees I’ve been noticing are a lot narrower and harder to differentiate in the past 15 to 20 years,” said Jon Bennett, arborist at VI Tree Service. “So that indicates that these drought conditions have been going on for awhile and that’s probably the reason for the rapid decline that we’re seeing now.”
Bennett says western red cedars, Douglas firs and arbutus have been impacted the most.
The arborists say larger trees may be surviving better because they have deeper roots to access water. They recommend watering and fertilizing trees in yards to help their survival but say the drying pattern is a sign climate change is real.
“It’s worrying for sure these are a lot of our native species that are dying off,” said Bennett.
Frang says he’s happy to have more firewood but he feels sad the impacts of climate change are becoming felt in such a widespread way.