102 Million Trees Have Died in California’s Drought

Written by Lorraine Chow and republished with permission from EcoWatch.

California’s six years of drought has left 102 million dead trees across 7.7 million acres of forest in its wake, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced following an aerial survey. If that is not horrendous enough, 62 million trees died in the year 2016 alone—an increase of more than 100 percent compared to 2015.

In the photo below, all the dead trees are grey or orange.

Dead and dying trees on forest lands in California, August 2016. Photo Credit: USFS Region 5 Flickr

Dead and dying trees on forest lands in California, August 2016. Photo Credit: USFS Region 5 Flickr

“The scale of die-off in California is unprecedented in our modern history,” Randy Moore, a forester for the U.S. Forest Service, told the Los Angeles Times, adding that trees are dying “at a rate much quicker than we thought.”

“You look across the hillside on a side of the road, and you see a vast landscape of dead trees,” added Adrian Das, a U.S. Geological Survey ecologist whose office is located in Sequoia National Park. “It’s pretty startling.”

Most of the dead trees are located in 10 counties in the southern and central Sierra Nevada region.

“Five consecutive years of severe drought in California, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation and warmer temperatures are leading to these historic levels of tree die-off,” the USFS said.

Forest Service experts believe that more trees will die in the coming months and years due to root diseases, bark beetle activity or other stress agents. The agency warned that tree deaths are on the rise in northern regions, especially in Siskiyou, Modoc, Plumas and Lassen counties.

The lack of rain and unseasonably high temperatures has added stress to the trees. These factors have made trees increasingly vulnerable to bark beetles infestations and disease.

Some have raised concerns that the staggering number of dead trees can fuel even bigger and more destructive wildfires in the Golden State.

Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack lamented that not enough resources are being invested into forest health and restoration.

“These dead and dying trees continue to elevate the risk of wildfire, complicate our efforts to respond safely and effectively to fires when they do occur, and pose a host of threats to life and property across California,” Vilsack said in a statement.

Not only that, researchers from the University of Washington found that large forest die-offs—from drought, heat, beetle infestations or deforestation—can significantly impact global climatepatterns and alter vegetation on the other side of the world. The study was published this month in PLOS ONE.

“When trees die in one place, it can be good or bad for plants elsewhere, because it causes changes in one place that can ricochet to shift climate in another place,” said lead author Elizabeth Garcia. “The atmosphere provides the connection.”

In October 2015, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state’s unprecedented tree die-off a state of emergency. He formed a Tree Mortality Task Force to help mobilize additional resources for the safe removal of dead and dying trees.

However, some experts have suggested leaving the dead trees in the forests. Douglas Bevington, the forest program director for Environment Nowwrote that dead trees are vital to forest ecosystems.

“Dead trees can remain standing for decades or more and a standing dead tree—known as a ‘snag’—provides great habitat for wildlife. Birds and mammals make their homes in openings carved within snags, while wood-boring insects that feed on snags provide the foundation of the food chain for a larger web of forest life, akin to plankton in the ocean,” he wrote.

“From the perspective of the timber industry, a snag in the forest is a waste, so timber companies and the Forest Service have spent decades cutting down snags as quickly as possible,” Bevington continued. “As a result, there is now a significant lack of snags in our forests and this shortage is harming woodpeckers, owls and other forest wildlife. For them, the recent pulse of snag creation is good news.”

76 comments

Melania P
Melania Padilla2 months ago

So sad, all humans fault! Shared

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 months ago

Past Member. Go back to your delusional dreaming. Human caused global warming is a physical fact. Move aside and let people who are responsible (not you) deal with this.

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Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 months ago

Thanks for posting it.

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Joe Le Gris
Joe Le Gris3 months ago

How scary.....

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Past Member
Past Member 3 months ago

If all of the above in the story impacts "global warming" I do wish someone would explain Brother Juniperos diary entries to me...from the 1700's... on the coast in California...men on expedition dying from starvation, thirst, scurvy trying to get from San Diego to San Francisco...had to turn back as the sources of water...rivers were dry.

Just what makes todays' drought in California so special, strange or caused by man made anything?

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Will Rogers
Will Rogers3 months ago

That picture is not one of drought, it is of acid rain and disease stricken trees. probably caused by car pollution. In Northern Europe we had similar problems in the 70's. We put regulations in place so that factories are monitored and fined accordingly and were forced to enact cleaner practices.

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Will Rogers
Will Rogers3 months ago

Imagine if this article was about China, that in the Wuhan district 102 million trees have died because of drought? Well the commenters on here would be going crazy about China's pollution and the barbaric ways of that country. But America shouts drought and everyone says Okay, an American child uses as much water as an African village. The most burning of fossil fuels ever including gasoline and coal, with car ownership through the roof with some households having four or more cars! Air conditioners blasting cool air in the summer and inefficient oil fired heating in the winter. Or is it a curse for the displacement, ethnic cleansing and genocide of the original peoples of that land? Only joking! That's silly and inflammatory ...well not exactly inflammatory as there's not enough natives left to raise a proper protest.

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william Miller
william M3 months ago

thanks

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