How Climate Change Will Affect Bedford’s Trees ~ Part One

Ken Prescott, Bedford Arbor Resource Committee
First of two articles

The Bedford Arbor Resource Committee is considering how climate change could affect our urban forest over time.  Growing conditions have already changed and are expected to continue to become more challenging in the near future.

Some trees are expected to struggle but survive for a while, some trees will do poorly, and some trees are expected to do better. By identifying the trees affected by changing conditions, we hope to help the Town and residents make the best-informed choices when planting new trees in Bedford.

New studies have confirmed that the Arctic atmosphere is warming significantly faster than the rest of the planet. While this means that Alaska is the fastest-warming state, with devastating consequences for the people who live there, it also means that the Arctic warming will cause more persistent and extreme weather conditions for the rest of the hemisphere, including our state. Other climate changes are expected to disrupt ocean circulation, bringing significant sea level rise. (See “Researchers Warn Arctic Has Entered ‘Unprecedented State.”)

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)–the regional planning agency for metropolitan Boston, including Bedford–has developed a list of expected changes in our region as a result of climate change. Winter may start later and end sooner. Blistering hot days could damage plants, including trees used to cooler conditions.

Higher temperatures will mean more evaporation and a greater chance of drought in the summer, but more rainfall in the winter. Overall, we can expect more rainfall in the near future, with 10-year storms depositing 6.5 inches instead of the current 5 inches.

The changing climate will enable various diseases and insects affecting trees as well as other plants to become established locally. For example, the southern pine beetle is moving north. Wet spring conditions will worsen oak wilt.

With these changing conditions in mind, BARC will suggest some trees appropriate for planting in the next article.

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