Summer Drought: West U Loses 5-10 Percent of Trees

January 11, 2012

The City of West U lost 5-10 percent of its trees over the summer because of the drought, but Urban Forester Craig Koehl says that the city faired “really well” compared to other areas.

The main reason is that most people in the city have irrigation systems, he said.

The drought killed mainly Water Oaks that were planted in the city’s right of ways and were between 60-75 years old, Koehl said. The oak trees were susceptible to drought and a fungus called hypoxylon, which also killed many trees in Memorial Park over the summer.

The percentage of trees that died equaled about 40-60 trees, he said.

While this may seem like a large number of trees, Koehl said it’s just “mother nature returning it to the earth.”

“It’s part of a trees life,” he said. “They’re going to die eventually.”

Koehl said the city does everything it can to prolong the life of the trees but sometimes it’s an “uphill battle” because some trees are genetically predisposed to disease and drought.

On the flip side, the city will also see a loss in other species of trees during really wet years, he said.

The average life of a tree in West U lives to be about 60-80 years old if they are planted in the right spot and get the right watering. Out of all the trees in West U, 25 percent of them are Water Oaks and the majority of them are Live Oaks.

“Trees didn’t evolve in an urban environment, they evolved in the forest,” he said.

The trees that were killed by the drought have been replaced with a variety of different species that are more resistant to drought and oak wilt. Some trees that are more drought resistant include Mexican Monterrey White Oak and native trees like Bur Oak, Cedar Elm and Winged Elm, he said.

Koehl says that resident’s trees will be affected by more than just this summer’s drought. If there’s a shortage next summer, they’ll see more tree mortalities.

Koehl recommends planting a variety of different species and watering deeply and less frequently.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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