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This Earth Day, Let’s Talk Trees

Posted on Apr. 22 2021

The Drumheller Resiliency and Flood Mitigation Office has implemented an urban tree strategy that will see every tree removed during the flood mitigation process replaced at a 5:1 ratio with new trees and/or bushes that are appropriate for natural habitation. This 5:1 replacement plan ensures both carbon balance, as well as limited impact on Drumheller’s wildlife.

Our tree team has been cataloguing tree and vegetation data, along with factual information about the trees on all accessible public land within Drumheller. This is important to continue down the path of eco-harmony in Drumheller. Proper tree management enables the safe removal of potential safety hazards and allows replanting new vegetation in areas where growth is needed and feasible, enabling them to flourish for years to come.

The team has catalogued over 25,000 trees in the Drumheller Valley, the majority of which are Green Ash, Elm or from the Poplar family. Of these trees over 50% have reached their lifecycle capacity where they are no longer producing sufficient carbon offset. This time in a tree’s life is called “senescence” and is essentially the tree’s dying process. During this process, the tree reallocates its stored energy to extend its lifespan. We see during this time branches and root structures become brittle with frequent breakage, which in turn becomes a hazard to both people and berms.

Particularly woody plant growth is discouraged on berms as they can hinder safety inspections as well as inhibit the integrity of the structure itself. Tree root growth spreads outwards and causes subsidence and internal erosion by draining moisture from the soil. This can lead to both consistent and constant cracking due to a loss of foundation. If a tree falls, the large root system becomes liable to leave gaping voids in embankments, which is both an immediate hazard when in populated areas, and a future issue when it comes to berm repairs and costs.

The most efficient and cost-effective method is to clear these areas of self-set, unmaintained trees, and instead plant young saplings elsewhere in order to preserve the life of both berms and promote a viable and long-life eco-forest where it can flourish.

In the fight against climate change trees are of paramount importance. Not only do they offset carbon in the atmosphere, but also store carbon in their trunks and roots while growing. Trees are at their peak carbon offsetting period when they’re 10-50 years old, with the benefit shifting to atmospheric carbon offset as new growth slows down. With our 5:1 vegetation replacement strategy we are committed to increasing carbon offsets and ensuring a viable and flourishing ecosystem for Drumheller’s wildlife for many years to come.

For more insight into Drumheller’s Urban Forest Inventory check out this graphic published by Esri.

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