Trees are critical infrastructure. Water them amid drought

The trees on the lowly sidewalk often stood invisible. We rest in its shade, basking in the scent of spring flowers, and we don’t notice it until it’s gone.

But the tree works hard. It holds and filters stormwater runoff and helps replenish groundwater. It cleans our air and cools our neighborhoods. It improves our mental health. It saves lives.

With Southern California officials curbing outdoor water use amid worsening drought, the message is clear: It’s okay to turn your lawn brown, but we need to keep the trees alive and healthy.

“Trees are a long-term investment in the health and well-being of our neighborhoods and need some water to withstand periods of reduced rainfall, but they provide us with enormous benefits.” , said Rachel Malarich, city ranger officer.

Under drought regulations released last week by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity, Angelenos will be subject to regulations that limit watering to two days a week beginning June 1. However, drip irrigation Access to food sources and hand-held vegetation irrigation is allowed each day before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m., in accordance with the DWP’s Phase 3 rule.

DWP spokeswoman Ellen Cheng said the Department of Street Services, which maintains street trees, and the Department of Parks and Recreation, which maintains park trees, must also follow the rules. as a customer of Electricity and Water, a spokesman for DWP.

Growers say the restrictions, followed correctly, will not affect the plants.

Nick Araya, owner of TreeCareLA, said: “I looked at it and said, ‘There’s nothing to worry about. “Even the most delicate of plants will be happy with eight minutes twice a week, and larger plants will be content with occasional heavy hand watering.”

What is worrisome, however, is the public reaction to these kinds of restrictions, Araya said. His company is getting dozens of calls from people worried about their trees dying from the drought.

“We knew the trees would be affected by this message,” says Araya. “People don’t interpret it properly.”

If people stop tending to their plants completely, the effects won’t be seen until next month, says Araya. While plants that are watered under water may seem fine now, a lack of water can prevent buds from forming properly next season. Leaves may open only on half of the plant, or open small and die immediately.

Trees on public land are also threatened.

During the last drought, several urban trees across Southern California were hit hard by the heat and lack of rainwater. In 2015, Los Angeles park officials estimated that up to 14,000 trees in LA parks — about 4% of the total — may have died during last year’s drought. The year before, officials said only about 1% of the trees were found dead. Other communities have the same problem.

Rachel O’Leary, chief executive officer of City Plants, said that compared to the previous drought, water agencies and various state organizations are working harder to get the message across. of trees and keep them alive during droughts.

City Plants, which runs a free tree planting program for the city of Los Angeles, has been in constant communication with the DWP about how to make sure trees survive the drought, O’Leary said. Statewide organizations like California ReLeaf and the California Urban Forest Council have also posted information on optimal tree care during times of drought.

“Trees are vital city infrastructure and they need to be watered,” says O’Leary. “They are truly one of the least water-intensive landscapes we have [and] it’s a good investment of water. “

While plants may need weekly watering for the first three years of their life, adult plants only need plenty of water once or twice a month. A plant’s watering needs can also depend on the plant species and soil type.

Growers recommend mulching around plants to reduce water loss by evaporation and keep the soil cool. They also recommend pruning live plants, as their canopy covers the ground below and helps retain moisture.

Andy Trotter, West Coast Arboists’ vice president of operations, said: “When water is the limiting factor, it’s easier for a mature tree to maintain its health and foliage than it is to attempt to regrow living foliage. has been pruned.

O’Leary advises: Summer may also not be the best time to plant new trees, as extreme heat can affect trees and people. The growing season in Los Angeles runs from October to late spring.

“Take the time to invest in summer tree care, seeing what plants you have and how you can best support them to get through this period,” says O’Leary.

Some experts say we might not even have to worry about the trees.

According to Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann, an urban forestry consultant at the University of California, there is no major effect on vegetation even if outdoor water use is reduced.

The study examined aerial imagery to estimate the “greenness” of vegetation and found it remained relatively stable over a 10-year period. Although there was tree death in some areas, there was no major change overall.

“The trees will probably be fine,” says Nobua-Behrmann.

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-05-24/trees-are-critical-city-infrastructure-keep-watering-them Trees are critical infrastructure. Water them amid drought

Edmund DeMarche

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