California Drought Kills 27 Million More Trees
Another 27 million trees died in California last year due to the lingering effects of drought, according to new aerial survey data from the U.S. Forest Service.
In a typical year, about one million trees die across California.
“The trees have been weakened and under a lot of stress and we have these beetle populations that are doing well,” he said.
Drought often kills trees indirectly.
By depriving them of water, trees become weakened and unable to ward off diseases, fungus or bark beetles, which are always present in the forest but explode in numbers when trees are unable to fight them off.
Last winter, more rain and snow fell on parts of the Sierra Nevada than in the previous four years combined.
The lower rate could also be a result that so many trees have already died, so there’s just not much left to be killed, said Stephanie Gomes with the U.S. Forest Service’s tree mortality task force.
Indeed, this year’s data shows species with lower death rates in the past are dying in different parts of the state.
Previously, the hardest-hit species and regions of California were pines at lower elevations in the Southern Sierra Nevada, where the highest temperatures sucked water out of soil, depriving trees of what little moisture existed.
“As fire suppression costs continue to grow as a percentage of the Forest Service’s budget, funding is shrinking for non-fire programs that protect watersheds and restore forests, making them more resilient to wildfire and drought,” Randy Moore, Regional Forester of the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, wrote in the news release.