Thousands of newly-planted trees at risk in dry summer

The Kensington North Watersheds Association planted 2,700 one gallon-pot trees this spring and with the lack of rainy weather, the group has had to take measures to make sure the new plants are getting enough water.

About 2,700 trees were planted this spring

The Kensington North Watersheds Association has been pumping water from streams and using hoses to water trees planted this past spring. (Submitted by Johanna Kelly)

Though the Island has seen more rain in recent weeks, the summer has still been a dry one.

This has been a problem for farmers and a source of concern for at least one watershed group, though not for the reason that immediately comes to mind.

The Kensington North Watersheds Association planted 2,700 one gallon-pot trees this spring and with the lack of moisture the group has had to take measures to make sure the new plants are getting enough water.

Johanna Kelly, project manager for the association, said that means covering a lot of ground.

"Sometimes it's several acres in various spots, it's a lot of trees."

Pump it up

The group has taken measures to try and ensure that the new trees are not stressed, and are using unconventional methods to do so.

"We've been able to rig up a pumping system … we place a pump on the stream bed and a filtered bucket into the stream and with garden hoses we water the trees," said Kelly.

She said that some of the trees are too far away from the stream to be reached with a
hose.

We're 100 per cent dependent on groundwater on Prince Edward Island so it's important to try and filter as much good water back down into the water table as possible.- Johanna Kelly

"If we can't reach trees with hoses … then we'll fill watering cans from the hose and reach those outlying trees," said Kelly.

There are 18 smaller watersheds contained within the Kensington North Association, and Kelly said that means some areas aren't close enough to a stream to pump the water from the source.

"We've used rain barrels and the big fishing tubs that you would transport cold shellfish or fish in, fill them with water and dunk watering buckets into them and hand water the trees."

Kelly said the group fills the rain barrels at someone's house, loads them on the back of a truck and goes about watering.

'Has a great impact'

Kelly said keeping the trees well-watered is especially important, because there have also been new threats to the trees in the watershed that might be even more dangerous when the trees are stressed due to a lack of water.

"We're seeing more and more inmigration of various pests that are … attacking some of our native species," she said.

"There's insects and there's different kinds of molds and funguses and bark boring insects … which will stress a tree."

It's a pretty big effort that's ongoing every year throughout P.E.I. all for the benefit of keeping water clean and safe for Islanders.- Johanna Kelly

Without sufficient water, trees are not able to battle these threats effectively.

"And that's all trees not just new trees and it has a great impact on the forest cover for sure," she said.

"They don't have the ability to kind of fight that off and recover."

Trees help

Kelly said that trees help prevent erosion a problem that is more prevalent with torrential downpours like a few seen so far this summer.

"The storm cycles that we seem to be having now we get a lot of very high water events and that can cause a lot of erosion along the stream," she said.

The Kensington North Watersheds Association planted about 2,700 trees in the spring. (Kensington North Watersheds Association/Facebook)

"The root systems will help keep everything in place and help to keep the streams healthy."

Trees also help filter water returning to the ground, something of great importance on the Island.

"We're 100 per cent dependent on groundwater on Prince Edward Island so it's important to try and filter as much good water back down into the water table as possible," said Kelly.

'Amazing thing to watch'

Kelly estimated that about 40,000 trees were planted by the Island's watershed groups this past spring.

She said losing the trees would mean more of a time investment this fall or next spring to replant them on top of the trees the association will be putting in next spring. 

She said that it is a lot of work, but something that is necessary and gaining awareness from the public.

"It's a pretty big effort that's ongoing every year throughout P.E.I. all for the benefit of keeping water clean and safe for Islanders," she said. 

"It's an effort that's gaining I think more and more momentum and more visibility. It's an amazing thing to watch."