WATCH ABOVE: It’s one of the city’s most prized assets, but Edmonton’s urban forest is under a lot of stress because of the one thing many people are enjoying: the hot, dry weather. Vinesh Pratap reports.
EDMONTON — If you look closely enough around the city, you might notice the leaves of several trees starting to change colour. But an early autumn isn’t upon us. Many of the trees are stressed due to the extremely dry conditions being felt across much of the province this summer.
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While the Edmonton region has seen a few good soaks of rain over the past couple of weeks, n urban forestry experts say it’s too little too late.
“Because it has come a bit late the trees are starting to say, ‘Okay, I’m struggling here. Let’s just shut it down now rather than continue to utilize some of my resources and storage,’” says Jeannette Wheeler, management supervisor with the City of Edmonton’s Urban Forestry department. “So they’re going to start shutting down.”
“It’s actually maybe a little bit on the scary side, in my opinion, just because of the lack of moisture that we have.”
The premature yellowing of the leaves is called ‘early fall symptoms,’ which according to Wheeler isn’t overly unusual in August. But she says she started seeing signs of it as early as June this year.
“Just little pockets,” she says, “but now I’m starting to see a much wider scale of this… We are probably close to a month earlier than normal because of the dry conditions.”
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Avid bird watcher Don Delaney, who visits Edmonton parks almost every day, says he’s noticed it too.
“Some of the evergreens are looking kind of a paley-green. I’ve noticed a lot of leaf curl on various trees and subjectively, I’m no expert, they just don’t seem to be as vibrant and healthy,” Delaney explains.
The early change in colour comes as a bit of a concern to Delaney.
“I love to come and do my bird watching and photography, there’s that. And then even my own street, I live on a street where there are big huge American elms,” he says. “If anything happened to those trees or trees in other neighbourhoods that would be very sad because they’re such magnificent trees.”
There are about 330,000 trees in the City of Edmonton’s inventory, not including those in natural areas, worth an estimated $1.4 billion.
The city is doing everything it can to save as many trees as possible, but Wheeler estimates Edmonton will lose about 2,000 trees this year. While that number isn’t overly high compared to other years, Wheeler says there are more larger trees being lost this summer.
“We’re spending every penny on our tree replacement budgets,” says Wheeler.
Because of the slowly changing habits of trees over time, Wheeler worries the same situation might be in store for 2016.
With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.