Thursday, November 5, 2015

El Nino poses possible danger for drought-stricken dead trees

(Originally published in the 11/5/15 edition)

   On Monday, an inch of rain dropped on the Bay Area, offering a potential prelude of the El Nino winter that is expected to hit within the next few months. This could be perceived as a relief for a state that has experienced four years of drought, but it is important to consider the negative effects that could result from an El Nino season. One of them concerns dead trees.
   On Oct. 30, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency regarding the tens of millions of trees across the state that have been infested by bark beetles as a result of the ongoing drought.
   “California is facing the worst epidemic of tree mortality in its modern history,” Brown wrote in a letter to Tom Vilsack, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “A crisis of this magnitude demands action on all fronts.”
    According to Tina Marchetti, executive director of the Benicia Tree Foundation, dead trees pose a threat not only in wildfires but can also be carried away in floods or mudslides as a result of El Nino.
   “Luckily, Benicia is not as impacted by this as many other parts of the state,” she said. “But it is still important for homeowners to realize the dead trees on their property can pose a threat.” 
   Brown has called for dead trees to be removed through controlled burns. Additionally, Marchetti says there are other things people can do to minimize the impact of El Nino on dead trees.
   “It is important to continue to care for trees during the drought, even if the tree is located in a lawn area that you have discontinued watering,” she said. “It’s important to not let the tree die.”
   Marchetti also added that homeowners should trim branches so they aren’t near roofs or gutters, as they could break during heavy winds. Additionally, she suggested working with tree removal companies or arborists, such as A Plus Tree Service in Vallejo. 
   As for when to start this process, Marchetti advised that homeowners start landscaping right away.
   “It can sneak up on you,” she said. “We had a pretty heavy system just a couple days ago, so the sooner the better.”
   Marchetti noted that Benicia Tree Foundation is willing to help people replace their dead trees. The organization will be planting 150 new trees in the next month, including at Benicia High School and the Benicia Housing Authority from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Nov. 14. 
   “We welcome help from the public if they would like to volunteer and help plant young trees,” she said. 


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