Dutch elm disease taking fewer trees than in past years
TRURO - Fewer trees are being removed this year due to a disease that has already robbed Truro of many of its beloved elm trees.
This winter, 26 diseased trees will be taken down through the town's Dutch elm disease management program. It will cost taxpayers $11,790 to have the trees removed.
The total number is down from past years, but that is not necessarily an indication the town is ridding itself of the dreaded disease.
"We're just slowly running out of the big, high-profile elms, which are going to succumb," Truro tree technician Andrew Williams said. "It's a sad thing."
Truro started losing the first of its stately trees due to the Dutch elm disease in 1982 when a pair of trees was removed. Between 1982 and 1999 there were 439 trees removed.
The peak years of tree removal occurred during the mid 2000s when upwards of a couple of hundred trees were removed annually.
In 2009, there were 44 removed. The year before saw 192 cut down and 211 the year before. The total number of trees removed now stands at 2,054.
"You think of the trees that we're losing, these are some of the largest, most mature, most high-profile, street-side trees," Williams said. "It is a shame."
The trees are identified in the summer based on symptoms in the trees' upper canopy.
"There is no cure for Dutch elm disease, there's only control," Williams said. "The only proven method of control is regular removal and disposal of diseased trees."
A fungus causes the disease, which is primarily transferred by the elm bark beetle. The beetle picks up spores from affected trees and introduces them into the vascular tissue of the new tree.
"We will continue to lose elm trees over time, hopefully in lower number because they're getting farther apart," Williams said.
The disease can also be transferred via the tree's root grafts below the ground. A tree's roots can be three times the diameters of the crown.
While there is some genetic resistance amongst the elm species, it is impossible to tell which trees are resistant.
Williams pointed out some residents and businesses were forward thinking years ago and now have 10- and 15-year-old trees on their properties to replace diseased elms which have been removed during the past decade. The town has hosted a tree-planting program since 1974, which has helped replace some of the trees that have been lost.