Climate change is changing trees in southern New England

Arborists are seeing more and more southern tree varieties survive and thrive in our area as native trees face climate driven threats.

By: Tim Studebaker

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MIDDLETOWN R.I. (WLNE) – A changing climate is changing our trees.

Arborist Matthew “The Twig” Largess says, “We have all kinds of new diseases and insects.  Trees are falling down everywhere.  They’re dying rapidly from drought.  Climate change is such a factor, and these trees are such an indicator.”

He says as the climate changes, the threats our trees face change with it.  One of those threats: pests.

Largess says, “Gypsy moths just came through.  Emerald ash borer, Asian longhorn beetle, hemlock wooly adelgid, Lantern flies.  They could wipe out species of the fruit tree population.”

On top of that, more frequent and stronger storms, plus warmer winters all play a role.

Largess says, “Trees love dormancy, so basically the dormancy is leaving them, so they’re struggling drastically to try to adjust to that.”

He says he’s seeing more and more southern tree varieties survive right here in Rhode Island.

Largess says, “The river birch, which grew natively down in New Jersey, but they are just thriving around Rhode Island and even to the north.  You got tupelo trees, which get really tall.  Sweetgum is another one, you know?  And the pines, the southern pines, which really could grow here now.”

He says while climate change is driving the changing types of trees that survive here, planting trees remains important in fighting that climate change.

Largess says, “When you plant a tree, it takes in carbon dioxide and puts out oxygen, basically, and it cools the surface of the earth.  We need to plant billions of trees to save us.”

In addition to southern trees, he stresses the importance of planting native trees too.

Largess says, “Natives are where we want to go.”

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2020

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island