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Experts say Augusta tree canopy harmed by ice storm

Trees vulnerable as weather warms

Sunday, March 16, 2014 5:34 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 18, 2014 1:52 AM
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Already weakened from a soggy summer, Augusta’s tree canopy sustained major blows during February’s ice storm and is now vulnerable to losing more limbs in coming months as warmer weather awakens insect borers from hibernation, experts say.

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Tree limbs sag under the weight of ice last month on Baker Avenue during the ice storm.   JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
Tree limbs sag under the weight of ice last month on Baker Avenue during the ice storm.

“It is far from over,” said Ian Campbell, an arborist and manager of Bartlett Tree Experts of Augusta. “We are going to see more tree loss over the summer from increased borer insect activity moving into the area.”

Citing a 2009 study published by the U.S. Forest Service, Campbell said wood borers and bark beetles are likely to invade evergreen trees such as pines and oaks, which release increased levels of organic compounds and ethanol under stress.

Campbell said homeowners can help strengthen their evergreen canopies through increased fertilization, but Roy Simkins, an arborist and the chairman of the Richmond County Tree Commission, estimates that 25 to 30 percent of the area’s pine and oak populations were lost and that replanting is necessary.

“The only thing I know to do is replant,” Simkins said. “That’s the logical next step, in my opinion.”

He said that if the city decides to start a replanting program, it needs to be selective in the types of trees it chooses to ensure Augusta has a population that’s structurally sound and can withstand another ice storm.

“We need to sustain our reputation as the Garden City, and we need the canopy to help us with our temperatures, stormwater and general appearance of the area,” he said.

No replanting plans have been announced by the city. Steve Cassell, the assistant director of traffic engineering, said his office has focused all of its attention on clearing the 500,000 cubic yards of debris left by the storm.

According to the latest reports, 22 bucket trucks and 71 hauling crews in Augusta have completed 70 percent of the debris removal and will begin a second pass through the city this week after announcing a last call for pickup.

So far, Cassell said teams have collected more than 22,000 hanging limbs and 718 leaning trees, which he estimates is enough to fill 85 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Crews project 35,000 hanging limbs and 1,000 leaning trees will be collected by the city before cleanup is complete, which is expected to end April 5.

“Some streets are going to look significantly different when all the debris is cleared,” he said.

Campbell estimated that 85 percent of Augusta’s tree population was affected in some way by the ice storm and that trees that haven’t fallen or lost 25 to 30 percent of their canopies are still viable candidates for landscape trees. All others, he said, might not last.

Simkins said the hardest-hit areas include the Summerville and Forest Hill neighborhoods.

“All the evergreens were just absolutely decimated,” Campbell said. “Very few trees went unscathed.”

Campbell said that although government-paid crews are collecting debris from the streets, the same needs to take place on residential properties.

The two arborists said there is a desire to preserve canopies and that professionals are looking at suppressing borer activity in the next few weeks.

“We have lost a lot of our urban tree canopy and will probably lose more when the dust settles,” Simkins said. “I am sure we can expect bark beetles to seek out some of these trees.”

Campbell recommended homeowners have soil tests conducted on their properties to determine what nutrients their ground lacks, but he said short-term solutions that could help trees recover include inserting fertilizer stakes filled with 10-10-10 evergreen solutions on their land.

“When we fertilize, we’re giving trees the vitamins they need to recover, just like a person,” he said. “Trees naturally can defend against insect and disease but need to be healthy to do so.”

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nocnoc
42448
Points
nocnoc 03/17/14 - 06:37 am
2
1
Wow. I must be an Expert too

Tree Damage could cause reduced Canopy?
I guess only 'US' experts could have figured that one out.

On a serious note.

Yes, naturally it does cause damage.
But it is natures way of culling and reducing weaker stuff from becoming the pro-dominate weak species of a given tree environment?

Is it not Natures way of adding floor vegetation in a forest for dozens of other species.

☺So if we were to adopt the Earth 1st "Earth Friendly/EPA Polices", are we harming the environment by removing 5,000,000+/- Cubic Yards (CSRA est) from the Ground as mother nature intended, and has done for 100's of 1,000's of years.☺

But then again, isn't this why GOD gave us a brain and made us the dominate species on Earth.

corgimom
32180
Points
corgimom 03/17/14 - 06:33 am
2
0
I was in Augusta Friday, and

I was in Augusta Friday, and we were stunned to see the damage to the trees. It's especially noticeable as you drive along I-20.

jimmymac
39175
Points
jimmymac 03/17/14 - 09:54 am
0
0
TREES
Unpublished

You haven't seen anything yet. Wait until some decent storms start raking the CSRA and it will look like the winter storm all over. Thousands of trees are damaged and will come crashing down with a little assist from Mother Nature.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 03/17/14 - 10:01 am
0
0
Don't replant under or over power lines. Logic 101.
Unpublished

Don't replant under or over power lines. Logic 101.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 03/17/14 - 10:02 am
0
0
But the ARC experts will plant under, over and around power line
Unpublished

But the ARC experts will plant under, over and around power line

louiemcman
64
Points
louiemcman 03/17/14 - 01:16 pm
0
0
Pick up WHEN?

"According to the latest reports, 22 bucket trucks and 71 hauling crews in Augusta have completed 70 percent of the debris removal and will begin a second pass through the city this week after announcing a last call for pickup"...I guess I'm the lower 30%, have not seen a bucket truck yet, last call??? How about the first call???

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