DEEP: Statewide Tree Damage

Statewide Tree Damage
 
Look up and watch out for hazardous trees while visiting the woods in our state’s forests, parks and wildlife management areas. 
 
Several years of severe storms and drought, resulting from our changing climate, and major insect infestations have left many damaged or dead trees in forests and residential areas. Damaged, dead, and diseased trees can fall without warning, potentially causing injury or property damage.
 
As you hike the trails or visit picnic areas and campgrounds, be extra cautious:
  • Look up and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Be particularly watchful when it is windy or when branches are covered with snow.
  • Avoid parking, picnicking, camping, hiking, and hunting in areas where dead trees or dead limbs are more likely to fall.
  • Walk around, not over, downed limbs and trees. 
While the chances of being struck by a falling tree or branch are low, being vigilant while in the woods can reduce the odds even more.
 
What Happened?
  1. Storms in spring 2018, including nor’easters in March and tornadoes in some parts of the state in May, have left their share of broken limbs and dead and downed trees. 
  2. The invasive, exotic emerald ash borer was discovered in Connecticut in 2012 and has been spreading across the state. This insect is inevitably fatal to ash trees.  Although ash trees are not a large component of Connecticut’s forests, they are somewhat common along roadways and in residential areas. 
  3. A gypsy moth outbreak began in 2015 in eastern and central Connecticut.  It persisted through 2017, enabled by serious drought in 2015 and 2016.  The drought by itself was enough to kill trees.  Coupled with the gypsy moth infestation, even more trees died, especially the large oak trees that are so valued in our forests.
Widespread oak mortality, particularly in eastern Connecticut, began in summer 2017 and continued through 2018.  By summer 2018, the leaves on many oak trees began to turn brown. This was caused by another insect, the two-lined chestnut borer, which attacks and kills vulnerable oak trees stressed by previous defoliations. This loss of oak trees is likely to continue into 2019.
 
The Good News
 
Despite the loss of so many trees, our forests are still healthy.  A forest is more than just trees. It includes the animals, other plants, soils, landscape, and the many processes that stitch these individual items together. One way to assess the health of a forest is to observe how it recovers from disturbance. New trees and shrubs will grow in the openings created by dead and downed trees. Standing dead trees, known as snags, provide roosting sites for hawks and habitat for cavity-using birds (woodpeckers, wood ducks, some owls, and more), amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, such as squirrels. Insects and fungi thrive on downed wood, also aiding in their decomposition back to the soil. Brush piles created by downed trees and branches provide cover and homes for a variety of wildlife, including chipmunks, rabbits, and snakes.
 
Keeping the Forests Open
 
DEEP is taking steps to address damaged, diseased, and dead trees, particularly in high-use areas. You may see trees marked with a dot of orange paint in picnic areas, around parking lots, and along major trails.  These trees are slated for removal – please stay away from them. 
 
You are encouraged to visit our parks, forests, and wildlife management areas, but it is important to keep in mind there is always a certain element of risk in using natural areas. Taking precautions is prudent while you enjoy the wonderful natural resources that our state has to offer.
 
Related Information:
 
Content last updated November 14, 2018