As the world’s climate continues to change at an accelerating rate, gardeners now need to consider whether the trees they plant today will be able to withstand the changing conditions in their gardens for decades or even a century to come. This is because trees are long-term investments that often outlive the people who plant them.
Daniel Herms, an entomologist specializing in tree resilience in the research arm of Ohio-based landscaping firm Davey Tree Expert Co., notes that the rate of climate change is outpacing the lifespans of trees. Therefore, some trees will thrive while others will not, depending on their ability to adapt to changing weather conditions, such as rising temperatures, rainfall, and drought patterns.
“It’s important for gardeners to consider the specific weather conditions in their area before choosing which trees to plant,” Herms said. “Some trees that are hardy in one place may not be hardy in another.”
California’s iconic Coast Redwoods, for example, are highly dependent on moisture from fog, which is declining due to climate change. Other state trees that are vulnerable to climate change in their state, but may be resilient elsewhere, include sugar maple in Vermont, red oak in Maryland, eastern white pine in Maine, and aspen in Colorado.
Gardeners should take the time to research and choose trees that are resistant to local weather conditions. By doing so, they can ensure that their trees will thrive and provide vital ecosystem services for decades to come. Additionally, planting resilient trees can help combat climate change by increasing carbon sequestration and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Resilient trees can help mitigate effects of climate change
One of the most obvious ways that climate change is affecting our planet is through extreme weather events. Droughts, heat waves, floods and storms are becoming more frequent and intense. Trees that are adapted to these conditions are better equipped to survive and thrive in these environments, making them more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
Trees play a crucial role in mitigating the effects of climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in their biomass. They also release oxygen into the air and help regulate the climate by absorbing and reflecting sunlight. By planting trees that are resistant to climate change, gardeners can help maintain this crucial ecosystem service.
As the effects of climate change continue to affect the planet, many species of wildlife are struggling to adapt to new environments. Trees that adapt to these changing conditions can provide important habitat and resources for these animals, helping to support their populations and ensuring their survival.
- Colorado’s blue spruce
- Idaho’s Western white pine
- Maine’s Eastern white pine
- Minnesota’s red pine
- Nevada’s single-leaf pinon
- New Hampshire’s white birch
- New Mexico’s pinon pine
- Oregon’s Douglas fir
- Pennsylvania’s hemlock
- South Dakota’s black hills spruce
- Utah’s blue spruce
- West Virginia’s sugar maple
Resilient trees provide a range of other benefits
Climate change resistant trees can provide a variety of other benefits to gardeners and their communities. They can help improve air quality by filtering pollutants, reducing erosion and runoff, and providing shade and cooling in urban settings.
They can also help create a sense of community and connection to nature, which is increasingly important in a world that is increasingly disconnected from the natural world.
Choosing Resilient Trees for Planting
Trees are long-term investments that often outlive the people who plant them, and with the world’s climate changing rapidly, it’s critical to select species that can withstand the changing conditions in our gardens for decades to come. Some trees will thrive while others will not, depending on characteristics that make them adaptable to changing climates, including rising temperatures and patterns of rainfall and drought.
The effects of climate change are not limited to specific regions or tree species, as even some iconic state trees are vulnerable to climate change in their own states. For example, California’s coastal redwoods are highly dependent on moisture from fog, and that fog is declining.
However, trees are one of the solutions to climate change, as they produce oxygen, provide shade and natural cooling during the summer, reduce stormwater runoff, and sequester and store carbon, contributing to climate goals as we get closer. to net zero.
To choose a hardy tree, Herms suggests selecting a species that currently thrives in your horticultural zone, as well as two warmer zones. For example, a homeowner in Zone 6 should look for trees that do well in Zones 6-8. Local cooperative extension offices and large arboretums with research divisions in your state can offer further guidance on tree selection, as many are collecting data and making recommendations.
Once you’ve selected a tree, it’s essential to plant it correctly and give it the best possible chance to thrive. Dig a hole exactly as deep and twice as wide as the root ball of the tree and incorporate a generous dollop of compost into the fill. Keep it well watered, especially for the first three years as it becomes established, as the trees generally require 1 inch of water per week.
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