Friday, April 28, 2017

A New Kind of Street Tree Grows in Newton MA

Scott Carlin planted a spring snow crabapple along Hyde Avenue in Newton. (Credit: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff) Click to Enlarge.
The Northeast has already seen a rise in temperature of roughly 2 degrees over the past 100 years, according to the federal National Climate Assessment released in 2014.

Along with rising sea levels and increased precipitation, the region is expected to experience more frequent, longer, and hotter heat waves, leading to increased drought risk.

A study released in March by the Woods Hole Research Center predicted that 40 tree species in the eastern United States will not be able to adapt to warming temperatures, including some varieties of birch, maple, fir, and cherry.

Researchers reviewed conditions at national parks and recreational areas in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Virginia. While park rangers can fight invasive species and pests, researchers said the underlying causes of climate change need to be addressed.

“We need to cut our fossil fuel emissions and stop warming. There’s no getting around that,” said Woods Hole scientist Brendan Rogers in a statement.

The future of Newton’s urban canopy is being shaped in part nearly 500 miles to the west, at Schichtel’s Nursery in Springville, N.Y. It’s where the city gets many of its trees, and growers there worry that the heat will bring drought, threatening trees like sugar maples, said James Kisker, the nursery’s sales manager.

Kisker said the nursery provides trees for more than 150 American cities, including Milwaukee and Minneapolis, and closer to home, Boston, Lexington, Arlington, and Cambridge.

He compared climate change’s predicted impact on some trees to the harm caused by Dutch elm disease to the American elm decades ago, or the Asian longhorned beetle, which wiped out troves of pines in the United States, including in Worcester.

“We’ve seen this pattern before,” he said.

The nursery has been encouraging city foresters to plant several varieties of trees that can handle drought and pollution, Kisker said. And they should be diverse enough to prevent insects and disease from decimating a community’s trees.

Marc Welch, director of the city’s urban forestry division, said the city’s tree program, which began plantings in 2015, is expected to add a total of 1,100 new trees by the end of 2017.

In addition to beautifying public spaces, he said, they offer shade, clean the air, and reduce stormwater runoff.

Specimens are chosen from among 20 to 30 different varieties, depending on the location. Where trees could bump into power lines, crabapple or cherry are being planted. Taller types — oak, for example — are being added where height won’t be an issue, he said.

“They are one of the few public assets, as they grow, they appreciate in value,” Welch said.

Read more at A New Kind of Street Tree Grows in Newton

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