Climate change affecting Christmas tree farms across Canada, expert says – ‘Experienced prolonged drought & extreme heat over the last two summers’

VANCOUVER — The effects of climate change are taking a toll on Christmas tree farms across Canada, with one forestry expert and the head of the Canadian Christmas Tree Association saying the sector that’s already undergoing shifts will need to adapt.

The festive trees take eight to 12 years to reach the size most people look for, and young seedlings are particularly vulnerable to climate risks, said Richard Hamelin, head of the forest conservation sciences department at the University of B.C.

Much of the province has experienced prolonged drought and extreme heat over the last two summers, and the seedlings have shallow root systems that don’t reach beyond the very dry layers of soil near the surface, Hamelin explained.

Meanwhile, their older counterparts may survive but lose their needles or turn brown as a result of extreme heat and drought, he said in an interview.

Seedlings and their shallow roots are also at risk of being inundated during flooding, while wet, cool soils increase the risk of root diseases, Hamelin noted.

Record-breaking atmospheric rivers of rain caused extensive flooding throughout southwestern B.C. in November 2021, but Shirley Brennan, the executive director of the Canadian Christmas Trees Association, said farmers in the province reported their seedlings mostly appeared fine and the extreme heat had been much harder on the trees.