Drought impacts fall foliage


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — We’ve been watching the drought worsen this entire season going from moderate to extreme. You may have noticed it on your lawns or in the prices of your fruits and vegetables. What you may not know is how the drought is impacting trees in the long term.

It’s the most beautiful time of year here in Western New York…the fall. Typically filled with red, orange, and yellow hues, this year, it may look a little different.

Scott Redding, Owner of Above and Beyond Tree Experts told News 4,”Trees need water and this year there hasn’t been a lot of it.”

Because trees are lacking so much water, at the start of the season it may be hard to tell if a tree is starting to turn color or just suffering from the drought.

Associate Professor of Biology at SUNY Buffalo State, Daniel Potts, said, “This combination of warm and dry conditions have acted to limit photosynthesis by trees so they’re not producing as much sugar as they would in a normal year.”

This lack of sugar is preventing colors in the leaves from turning as bright as they usually do. In addition to a lack of vibrancy, the time frame you can view the changing leaves will be a bit different.

Potts said, “The warm conditions in the spring and the summer tend to be associated with an acceleration of the leaf synthesis process leading to leaf color change and the autumn colors. But autumns that are very warm tend to delay the leaf color change process.”

This means that because we’ve seen such a hot summer, leaves may be turning colors a little bit earlier than usual. This of course can change depending on the type of soil and the type of tree you’re looking at.

He said, “Species tend to vary a lot. There is a lot of variation on how they respond to limited water conditions. So different trees, Maples, Ash, and Oaks respond differently.”

Although this year we may see some changes, they are not always instant.

Potts said, “The idea that they had a tough year this year that it might carry over to next year is a distinct possibility.”

You may be thinking it’s a little early to be talking about fall but I Love New York is already starting to keep track of the leaf change with their fall foliage report. For more information and a look at where you can see the changing leaves head to the Found It On Four section.

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