Drought, pests affecting trees in RSF

Drought, pests affecting trees in RSF
In addition to pests, Arnold Keene says that trees in Rancho Santa Fe have had to compete for very limited resources of water and nutrients in the soil. Photo by Tony Cagala

RANCHO SANTA FE — The topic of trees in Rancho Santa Fe is an important discussion varying from their current state of health to fire safety. Leading the discussion at the last Rancho Santa Fe Association (RSFA) board meeting was field operations manager at the Association, Arnold Keene.

He described 2016 to date as an interesting year so far.

“I would say generally the trees are in pretty good health with the exception of the red gum. We’ve got pepper trees that seem to be thriving and a lot of the other trees that make up our community are actually doing pretty well,” he said.

Keene pointed out that majority of the trees in the Ranch were comprised of the red gum eucalyptus tree.  The Ranch did have other varieties of eucalyptus that were more resistant to pests such as the lerp psyllid. The red gum variety wasn’t as resilient to it.

“So it’s the red gum that we really have to focus on,” Keene said.

He also added how pine trees were being killed at a rapid pace by the pine beetle. One week the tree will have a brown path, and a few weeks later, the pine tree is dead. He told the board and members that residents must be careful when applying chemicals on these trees.

In addition to the pests, Keene said that trees have had to compete for very limited resources of water and nutrients in the soil.

“I think we are starting to see the forest thin out a bit and as a reaction to the limited resources available,” he said.

Keen then branched off into fire risks.

He shared how his department is looking closer at the trees that have suffered from drought and other elements. When a decline in the health of a tree is noted, it is followed closely for some time noting if it is able to rebound. If unable, it is listed for removal to enhance fire safety. And more so, in instances where the tree could hinder an evacuation route.

In addition, Keene noted how the water culture is changing the landscape of the Ranch.

“Our biggest goal right now is trying to adapt to the changing water culture.  Tree management going forward, our department, our consultants, and our arborist will continue to identify and remove dead and dying trees,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing we can do right now.”

Keene wanted members and the board to know that they were focused on forest health and had it listed as a number one priority. While safety was of top-tier significance, maintaining the aesthetics of the community was also a mission.

“I think everybody looks back to 15 to 20 years ago when we had a healthy canopy and we were driving through these roads, and we see the changes,” he said. “So we are dedicated to try and preserve that as best we can right now.”

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