Wednesday, November 25 , 2015, 4:41 pm | Fair 59º

Drought Making Trees More Vulnerable to Infestation

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

The ongoing drought has brought trying times for area trees, parched with thirst and, subsequently, made weaker when facing insect pests and other foes.

Just as older people are more susceptible to health problems, so are trees, particularly those of the pine and oak variety, according to local arborists.

Trees can be drought tolerant, but will still need some water, said Bill Spiewak, a longtime consulting arborist who teaches horticulture at Santa Barbara City College.

Spiewak said he isn’t surprised to see pines dying this time of year, and he has inspected several oak trees that were attacked by beetles or other pests because they’re more vulnerable without water.

“They especially need water, and the drought has affected them,” he said of pines. “Like all trees, if they get stressed with drought, they become more susceptible.

"Even under normal conditions, they still get infested with beetles and often die. During the drought is a particularly stressful time.”
Spiewak noted that several types of pines grow locally — Aleppo, Monterey, Canary Island and stone — with some more resilient than others.

Santa Barbara city arborist Tim Downey said his staff is working to identify where the Parks & Recreation Department should focus irrigation efforts and where to reduce watering, which could affect some of the estimated 50,000 trees the city maintains.

The re-evaluation of resources was prompted by the Santa Barbara City Council’s declaration of drought last month, asking residents to reduce water use by 20 percent.

All parks and younger trees are watered when the city isn’t dealing with drought, Downey said.

“Trees need water to survive,” he said. “If they don’t get it in amounts sufficient to sustain their size, then they suffer from that.”

Downey said locals need to make their own decisions about how to use a dwindling water supply.

Spiewak recommended residents with trees on their property target the roots when watering for efficiency.

“The problem is that people get so concerned with the drought and conserving water and won’t water trees,” Spiewak said. “All trees are struggling in this weather. I think that the public doesn’t really understand the amount of water we get for every inch of rain on their property.”

He guessed that locals wouldn’t see the true impact of the drought on trees for some time.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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