Oak trees are one of the most common types of trees found in North America. They are gentle giants that live long and adapt well. But, sadly, their species is dying out. Increasing global temperatures coupled with other environmental factors like extremely high variability in soil moisture levels through the seasons, a widespread of root diseases and an increase in the number of wood-eating insect infestations have led to a significant decline in the oak population all over the world.
Rising temperatures and variable soil moisture levels
Global warming and climate change have led to an increase in the number of droughts and floods on Earth in recent times. And, such natural disasters put a lot of stress on the water levels in the soil. Needless to say, any trees growing on that soil are affected as well. Trees, like most plants, absorb nutrients and water from the soil through their roots. So, when the soil moisture levels get too high or too low – it severely weakens the trees growing on it. Weak trees are more likely to catch a root disease or get infested with wood-eating insects.
Early signs of decline
When environmental conditions like rising temperatures, excessive droughts, and floods, etc. are common and widespread, they can interact with each other in some very complex ways over time and eventually lead to the decline of a species (oaks in this case).
However, since this decline is slow and complicated, early signs of it are hard to notice. By the time these signs are noticed, it is usually too late already. When the decline reaches this advanced stage, it becomes impossible to reverse it in any way whatsoever. This is especially true for the more mature members of the species’ population.
Oak trees growing in waterlogged soil can get infected with diseases like Phytophthora root rot and Armillaria root rot which can kill the trees if not treated. Armillaria root rot can also infect oak trees recovering from a drought.
Oak trees growing in such stressed conditions also release certain chemicals that attract wood-eating insects like ambrosia beetles, black stem borers, red oak borers, and two-lined chestnut borers. These insects’ tunnel through and feed under the bark which damages the tree internally in a very fatal way. Leaf eating insects like gypsy moths and winter moths further compound this dying of the tree.
Saving the oaks
Don’t worry, though. Even if the oaks are dying now, they can still be saved – there is still some time left. Better plant health care, scientific soil testing, and analysis, modern fertilization practices, mulching, proper irrigation systems and prevention of infection and infestation alike are some of the ways to save the oaks from dying.
This post is brought to you by Tree Service Kissimmee.