Arbor Day 2022: Here's how climate change can impact trees

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The planet is changing, and climate models predict temperatures will continue to rise.

The Davey Tree Expert Company, established in 1880 and headquartered in Ohio, provides research-driven tree services, grounds maintenance and environmental consulting for residential, utility, commercial and environmental partners in the U.S. and Canada. Research and Development Vice President Dr. Daniel Herms joined ABC7 to discuss how climate change can impact trees ahead of Arbor Day.

He said the climate of the future depends on the health of trees, which play a critical role in managing ecosystems. They cool and reduce heat, especially in urban areas, keeping cities habitable. Trees also sequester carbon, save energy and reduce storm water runoff. But according to Davey Tree Expert Company, trees will face a new string of challenges as climate extremes become the new norm. The Midwest is warming faster than any other area of the country by the end of the century, Illinois' climate will resemble Texas, Herms said.

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By knowing what to expect, certified arborists can help ensure trees receive the care they need to survive, Herms said.

Herms added that increasing heat and humidity during spring will allow for more pests and diseases, such as redbay ambrosia beetle and emerald ash borer. Overall, pests are expanding their reach and emerging earlier.

At the same time, Herms said, trees will become more stressed due to higher temperatures. Stressed trees are more susceptible to some diseases and pests, requiring greater care to maintain their health.

Incidence of Lyme disease and mosquito populations will also grow, Herms added. The distribution of tree species such as paper birch, quaking aspen, balsam fir, and black spruce are predicted to decline as species with more heat and drought tolerance such as oak, hickory and pines become more competitive.

"All of this adds up to a tougher environment for trees to grow and thrive," Herms said.
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