Tree loss is a problem for all of us; with so many benefits to offer people in a changing climate, it is an irony that those changes may result in increased tree mortality rates. Around five and a half million urban shade trees were killed by a record drought last year: ten per cent of the entire urban forest. In addition, half a billion rural, park and forest trees are also reported to have died and a lot more trees will have been stressed beyond repair by the lack of water and will ultimately also succumb. The UK numbers may be smaller, but the consequence of drought here could be just as devastating.
Trees need watering – by rain or by people – about three times a month from April to the end of September. The Tree Council has issued a stark reminder that by the time we can see the effects of water shortage on our tree population, it will probably be too late to save most. Its Tree Care Campaign, launched on 21st March, challenges members of the public who have a tree on their land, or close by in adjacent public space, to make a real difference to tree survival this year.
All anyone has to do is save some of their waste water and take it to the tree. Around the amount it takes to do the washing up, carried out to the tree in a watering can or recycled container with a handle, will do the job. Poured slowly so that the water can permeate through the surface or else into a watering tube that has been buried beside the tree at the time of planting, this could make all the difference to the life chances for the trees in streets and gardens.
“Many of The Tree Council’s volunteer Tree Wardens co-ordinate street rotas so that everyone can play their part, but that’s not essential. If you value the contribution that trees make to providing food and shelter to wildlife, cleaning the air and shading the streets then you don’t need to join a watering scheme; just go out and do it” observed Tree Council Director-General Pauline Buchanan Black. “Simple actions like this will maintain the level of moisture in the ground that is necessary for trees to stay alive. Anyone can “adopt” the tree outside their front gate and, since it is almost impossible to over-water a tree, this year, give it as much water as you can.”
Defra parliamentary under-secretary Lord Taylor of Holbeach added “Using waste water is the right way to water trees during drought. We especially need Big Tree Plant trees to survive the dry spring and summer months and this is a positive step in helping to limit the effects of drought. We all need to take measures to use less water, and I urge you to take The Tree Council’s advice on tree care during the coming months.