From the Director's Desk A Changing Climate: New Problems, New Solutions

By Fred Breglia

Thanks to tech­nol­o­gy, arborists are bet­ter equipped and more informed than in the past. But with the impact of a chang­ing cli­mate, they are fac­ing more chal­lenges than ever before. Sev­er­al fac­tors expect­ed to neg­a­tive­ly impact tree health include extremes in tem­per­a­tures, inten­si­ty of wind and ice storms, effects from fire, and site and soil issues.

As mean tem­per­a­tures increase, heat com­bined with air pol­lu­tion will lead to greater stress for trees. Plants will expe­ri­ence ele­vat­ed lev­els of car­bon diox­ide, tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions, prob­lems with ozone, and less avail­abil­i­ty of nitro­gen and water. More severe droughts and more intense storms, includ­ing cat­a­stroph­ic hur­ri­canes, are anticipated.

We are already wit­ness­ing an unprece­dent­ed species migra­tion as the native range of trees in our forests changes. To mit­i­gate these shifts and to plan for healthy forests in the future, an ever-chang­ing body of knowl­edge about tree health and eco­log­i­cal inter­ven­tion is required. New trees should be cli­mate ready,” test­ed species that can sur­vive the cli­mate of the future. Hor­ti­cul­tur­ists are work­ing to breed cul­ti­vars that are more resis­tant to dis­ease, drought, and insects, and new types of grow bags have been devel­oped that enable many more roots to sur­vive dur­ing ship­ping and transplanting.

Tech­nol­o­gy also pro­vides arborists with new tools to address the prob­lems inher­ent in cli­mate change. For exam­ple, ground pen­e­trat­ing radar can be uti­lized to diag­nose root sys­tem dis­or­ders. Using high son­ic tomog­ra­phy tools, we can now visu­al­ly explore the cav­i­ties of trees, reveal­ing defects much as would a doc­tor iden­ti­fy dis­ease in a human being.

New approach­es in hor­ti­cul­ture are not lim­it­ed to rur­al loca­tions. Cities of all sizes are going green. In many areas, smart” designs for con­struc­tion projects are becom­ing the norm. Arborists are work­ing with engi­neers to pre­serve exist­ing urban green space. Green roofs, com­plete with solar pan­els and des­ig­nat­ed gar­dens, are being devel­oped on top of build­ings. They may incor­po­rate both sus­tain­able ener­gy and small-scale farm­ing. Earth-friend­ly engi­neer­ing is appear­ing every­where, town and coun­try. Gut­ters are being replaced with rain gar­dens and col­lec­tion pools, with cleans­ing sys­tems that facil­i­tate water con­ser­va­tion and reuse.

With a chang­ing cli­mate and the hor­ti­cul­tur­al chal­lenges it presents, new tech­nol­o­gy can, and must, lead to new solutions.

Summer 2021

Volume 39 , Number 2

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