There is a great irony in the predictions for climate change.
Trees play a large part in sequestering carbon in their roots, soil, and organic leaf litter, but also have to deal with the consequences of climate change. Carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is one of the major drivers of climate change on the earth, and trees and their supporting soil play a large role in abating and slowing down its effects. Through photosynthesis, growing their trunks with the resulting stored energy, and storing carbon in the soil, trees are one of the best solutions to this issue.
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Along with that, trees shade pavement; reducing evaporation of asphalt, and cool housing; reducing energy costs for heating and cooling. With trees being able to store up to a ton of carbon over a 40 year period, and their associated energy cost reductions, they are one of the greatest tools in the fight against climate change.
Unfortunately, trees will also have to live with significantly wilder changes in temperature.
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The old term of Global warming really confused the issue, as our area has experiences some of the harshest winters in the last two years. This, along with years of record heat in the summer, has really taxed some of our trees. In Arlington, we are in a particularly special place, with trees typically found only in the North and only in the South converging in one place.
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The Northern species are adapted to the cold, but will have to deal with higher overall temperatures over time. While some of the latter Southern species will probably be able to adapt to higher temperatures, the extremes in winter temperatures have taken a toll on these species. Figure 3: Sugar Maple, a tree not likely to survive in the long term in Arlington. We have had to, by recommendation from the Virginia Department of Forestry, stop recommending the planting of one of my favorite trees, the Sugar Maple. While it is not illegal to plant this species, it is not likely to be able to handle the long-term changes in our climate.
To replace these trees in our plant palette, we have started to look southward for options.
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While non-native species may be an option, Arlington County prefers to plant native species, and expanding our definition of what is native to this region may be the best solution to the predicted pressures to our trees. Along with temperature extreme changes, it is also predicted that our storms will increase in frequency and severity. While we have not had major storms in the last two years, this is more of an exception than a rule.
Hurricanes, ice storms, and other wind events cause major damage to our trees, and we need to be cognizant of this in our planning.
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Planting trees in groves, to distribute energy from storms, and ensuring trees are not planted in inappropriate locations, near critical facilities, are some of the preventive measures we can take. Additionally, providing preventive pruning and hazard removal can be used, but this is more of an extreme solution to a potential problem, and may expose other trees to additional threats.
Dealing with storms is a difficult topic to plan for, as it is not a predictable budget item, but we need to be aware of the impact they will have on our trees. Figure 4: Dieback caused by mountain pine beetle.
Onufriev December Chefonov , A. Ovchinnikov , D. Sitnikov , M.
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