At-risk Garry oak at least twice as old
Re: Preliminary approval for Berwick expansion, Dec. 8 Record: I was shocked to read: “50-year-old Garry oak will be chopped down…”. This is at odds with what science tells us. I have contacted the arborist responsible who acknowledged the limits of his knowledge and the sampling. A report was sent to Comox council Tuesday, presenting the scientific evidence that this tree is likely 125 to 225 years old. (This is further supported by reports of 70-year-olds who recall that these were “substantial trees” when they were children)
Berwick expansion is a political matter. This tree’s age is a scientific and cultural concern.
Tree species grow at certain rates. These are well-studied by scientists who core large populations to correlate age with stem diameter. Environmental variation is constrained by genetics. Alders are the fastest growing trees in B.C. Under the best conditions: “Red alder is a relatively short-lived species, maturing at about 60 to 70 years; on favourable sites, and 55 to 75 cm (22 to 30 in) in diameter.” (see 1.usa.gov/1PbbpI1 for full report).
Garry oaks are slow growing. They reach 100 years of age at 20 cm diameter. This oak is 76.4 cm. At 50-70 years it grew faster than an alder. This is unique.
Garry oaks are:
1) uniquely resistant to extremes of flood and drought –important for West Coast climate change adaptation.
2) culturally significant to First Nations.
Council can accept: 1) 50-70 years, then it is genetically unique and must be preserved; 2) science, this tree is between 125 and 225 years of age and culturally significant heritage. If council is sincere about “truth and reconciliation,” respect for this reminder of First-Nations heritage in Comox demands that this tree be preserved.
Berwick expansion is another thing. The developer’s needs should be respected by allowing all possible variances to allow for both the preservation of this oak and the economic development of the building.
Loys Maingon (RPBio)
RIG member of the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team