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Tree damage not necessarily related to drought

Aug. 6, 2012

New Berlin - In mid-July, New Berlin made the news because of all the tree damage it suffered from high winds raking the city

Asked if the weeks of no rain might have made the trees more brittle, New Berlin forester Paul Fliss said he wasn't aware of any clear link. However, he did see some validity in the theory.

Dead trees have no moisture in their limbs and they break off more readily than living limbs, he said. The broken limbs he helped clear away in July did seem to be more dried up than normal, Fliss said.

"It seemed like the branches were a little lighter because there was not as much moisture in them," he said. But it would be premature to conclude that the drought contributed to the tree damage.

Fliss said that associate professor of forestry at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Richard Auer, doesn't rule out the possibility, either, that the drought might explain some of the damage. Auer even suggested that drought-stressed trees might react like old barns that break along pre-existing cracks as the wood dries and shrinks, Fliss said.

On the other hand, trees shed branches all the time, often during rainstorms, he said. Because the summer hasn't produced any rainstorms, people might just be blaming the natural shedding on the drought, he said.

- Jane Ford-Stewart

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