British Columbia

Vancouver Island trees showing signs of stress due to drought and heat exposure

While many trees on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast have evolved with dry weather patterns, there are some species that are more susceptible to drought. Some are even dying, says B.C. Forest Health Officer Tim Ebata.

Prolonged dry conditions have caused some trees on Vancouver Island to lose their leaves early and even die

Tree species that like wetter soils are susceptible to drying out, say B.C. Forest Health Officer Tim Ebata. People can tell if a tree is losing moisture if its leaves turn red. (Tim Ebata)

The recent drought and heat exposure in B.C. has caused some Vancouver Island trees to show signs of stress.

B.C. Forest Health Officer Tim Ebata says that most trees on Vancouver Island are pretty tough.

"They have evolved with this type of weather for as long as they've been around," Ebata told On the Island guest host Jason D'Souza.

"But there are some species that are more susceptible to drought. And what we are seeing are trees that are actually dying."

On Vancouver Island's east end and on the Sunshine Coast, many people are expressing concern about red cedars in particular, says Ebata.

Dried out trees are becoming all too common as the drought continues in B.C. (Tim Ebata)

The tops of some trees are dying due to lack of moisture.

Tree species that like wetter soils are susceptible to drying out, says Ebata. People can spot if a tree is responding to the drought.

"It shows up usually in the foliage colour. And then also as the trees get even more stressed, the trees will actually start shedding leaves to reduce moisture demand on the leaves."

Heat exposure in the summer is normal and trees can survive a lot of drought.

"But prolonged periods of drought like we've seen in the last four years, or summers where you've had long periods of no rain, is really stressful on trees," says Ebata.

Trees that grow on really shallow soils or rock will show the first signs of drought, says Ebata. Insects will also take advantage of trees that are stressed.

Dying trees have multiple effects on the environment, says Ebata.

"By losing a mature tree, for example, you're losing shade. You're losing a potential habitat for various species. But dead trees also serve as habitat for a number of other species too. So it's sort of a mixed blessing having a tree die in a forest."

Ebata says anyone concerned with the health of their trees should try to water them as much as possible, but not drown them. He encourages tree owners to visit the CRD website for tips on how to take care of trees during a drought.

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With files from On the Island