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Trees in Alberta can't seem to get a break, as severe drought conditions have leaves turning yellow and brittle limbs snapping off.

Trees look ready for fall in Alberta. Find out why

Caroline Floyd

Friday, July 15, 2016, 12:01 PM -

Trees in Alberta can't seem to get a break, as severe drought conditions have leaves turning yellow and brittle limbs snapping off.

Poplar, ash, and elm trees across Calgary are starting to look decidedly fall-like, despite the calendar. Speaking to CBC News, Jeannette Wheeler, an urban forest supervisor for several Alberta cities, blamed the ongoing drought conditions.

Much of southern Alberta has been experiencing moderate drought since late 2014, with severe drought conditions spreading this year.

Map courtesy Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

It seems odd to blame drought, considering the recent heavy rainfall Calgary and environs has received, but little of the rain has managed to soak into the parched ground.

"It's just been running off," Wheeler told CBC News. "If you were to dig into some of those areas where you were seeing some of these trees that are turning yellow already, you would find there is no moisture in the ground."

While heavy rainfall is again expected through Saturday across the region, it may not be of much help to trees that have already turned. "They're saying 'Hey we're in drought condition'," Wheeler said to CBC, "We're going to shut down and hopefully start again next year."


Birch trees in Calgary are also turning brown thanks, in part, to the dry spring this year. Consulting Arborist Anita Schill told Garden Guru a combination of "Snowtember 2014", severe hail storms in 2015, and 2016's dry spring put the birch trees under high stress. "A tree that was left dry for this spring may shut right down for the year," Schill said. "In this case, rain and watering will not initiate another growth flush this year but will hopefully still help for next year."

According to CBC News, the City of Calgary is intervening where Mother Nature isn't helping out, and watering the city's young and newly-planted public trees. The city has been the process of replacing some of the roughly 250,000 public tress damaged in the unusual heavy September snowstorm of 2014, a recovery program that is expected to wrap up this fall.

Further north, Edmonton's trees are also feeling the stress of a dry season.

Wheeler told CBC News that the city is seeing its driest year since 2009, and that's making the limbs of many mature trees brittle and more easily damaged by wind. "It's just not getting the nutrients it needs, so it's going to start shutting down," Wheeler said. "When you get these wind events, and you've got a weak branch to begin with, and the tree is getting brittle because it doesn't have the moisture, there's probably an increased chance of it falling."

The City of Edmonton has reported increasing numbers of tree removals over the past 15 years, with specific numbers varying year to year based on annual precipitation amounts. Overall, the city has accumulated a precipitation deficit of more than 1.5 metres since 2000.

CBC News reports more than 800 branches have fallen in the city so far this year - some more than 12 feet long. The number of fallen branches is up 40 per cent from 2014.

Sources: CBC News | Garden Guru | City of Calgary | Agriculture Canada | City of Edmonton |

Watch below: See Calgary's plans to 're-tree' the city following "Snowtember 2014" in action last summer

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