Some Leaves in Northern Virginia Are Turning Brown Earlier Than Usual. Here's Why

Leaves are turning brown earlier than usual in Alexandria, and tree experts say dry weather and climate change is to blame. 

Some arborists say the hot, dry summer is impacting the leaves, as well as a long history of drought. That's because trees shed their leaves as a defense mechanism when they experience drought and know they're losing water, said John Marlin, an arborist at Alexandria Urban Forestry.

"The idea is that they can conserve water, ride out the drought, make it through the winter and re-leaf again in the spring when conditions are more favorable," Marlin said. 

Climate change is another factor, Marlin said.

The Virginia Tech Plant Disease Clinic is also analyzing samples to see if there are other issues with insects or fungus that might be impacting the leaves.

Some Northern Virginia residents are have started doing their own research into the issue, too.

Lynn Gas and Jane Seward have been going to houses in their neighborhood to keep track of all the dying trees. Of the 100 houses they've been to, 90 trees are dead and 90 more in serious decline.

The women launched the Canopy Tree Restoration Project two years ago to educate neighbors about how to take better care of their trees and encourage them to plant new ones. 

Still, Marlin and other arborists worry about what's up ahead.

"My worry is climate change and urbanization are going to make this environment harsher and harsher for our trees and that we're going to be seeing more decline and more symptoms like we’re observing today," Marlin said.

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