Atlanta's tree crisis: Heavy storms, drought and invasive species take their toll
'The City in a Forest' kicks into emergency mode as thousands of its famous trees come down.
Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Photo: Robert Morrison/Flickr
It's been a rough year for Atlanta's trees, the New York Times reports. Drought, heavy storms and invasive species have all taken their toll, felling thousands and thousands of trees in what is famously known as "The City in a Forest."
"We're in emergency mode," city arborist Jasen Johns told the paper. "I've never seen so many downed trees."
Bad weather has been the single biggest cause of what some Atlanta citizens have dubbed "Treepocalypse." Atlanta had four days of 50-mile-per-hour winds this spring which knocked down many 100-year-old trees.
Before the storms, the trees had been weakened by months of drought. "The trees become weaker, weaker, weaker," arborist Patrick Mawhinny told WSB-TV. "And then you get more breakage during high-wind storms. But you also get the trees that roll out of the ground." The soil in the area is mostly thick clay, which prevents trees from growing a deep tap root.
Disease, fungus and insects have also taken their toll on Atlanta's trees. The city's hemlocks, for instance, have been hit hard by an invasive Japanese insect. The Times doesn't name the insect, but it's probably the hemlock woolly adelgid, which is currently being studied by the U.S. Forest Service.
Water oaks planted in the 1920s have also had a high mortality rate this year, not from weather but sheer age: the trees only have an 80- to 90-year lifespan. They were planted when Atlanta created its first planned neighborhoods.
And it's not just single trees that have been lost. The crisis has resulted in huge gaps in the city's canopy.
According to the Times, all of this tree death has created a backlog for the city's arborists, who are sometimes putting in 24-hour days to remove fallen or dying trees.
As it has at other times in its history, Atlanta will rebuild, but right now it's too hot to plant trees to replace those that have been lost. The nonprofit Trees Atlanta is reportedly planning replanting events for the fall.
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