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Texas Drought May Have Killed 500 Million Trees

Texas Drought May Have Killed 500 Million Trees

 

Written by Stephen Messenger

Forests are among the most long-established habitats on the planet, forming their delicately balanced ecosystems over centuries — and a new study in light of Texas’s ongoing drought proves how quickly they can be decimated. According to the Texas Forest Service, as many as 500 million trees in the state — roughly 10 percent of the forests there — have been killed within the last year alone as a result of 2011′s bizarre lack of rainfall. To make matters worse, the massive die-off may just be the first in a long line as climatologists predict more severe drought to come as climate change worsens over the next century.

Forestry officials recently surveyed trees throughout 63 million acres of drought-riddled Texas and say what they found that months of record heat and stiflingly arid conditioned have left anywhere between 100 million to as many as half-a-billion trees dead. Texas Forestry Service directory Tom Boggus calls the findings “very shocking”, adding that they’ve witnessed “a significant change in the landscape.”

According to the American-Statesmen, the loss of plant-life in Texas due to the drought may be worse yet. The study did not factor in the millions of trees that perished due to drought-related wildfires, which, in 2011, were particularly damaging.

The survey is based on the collective reports of local forestry professionals who were asked to measure the drought’s toll in their areas.

They were asked to focus only on trees that had died from the 2011 drought and exclude “background mortality” from earlier droughts or drought-aided diseases, such as oak wilt.

Only trees of 5 inches or more in diameter, the point at which saplings become trees, were counted.

While it may be too soon to tell what role climate change has had on this tree-killing drought, it already has surpassed previous records; experts say that the dry-spell is the worst to hit Texas since rainfall data was first collected in 1895. Climatologists have already warned of a lack of rainfall associated with the global warming phenomena, but perhaps never before has the scale of a damage that results been measured so close to home.

In light of the Forest Service’s survey, and the economic hit suffered by Texas’s lumber industry from the undeniably abnormal drought, state officials may have no other choice but to address climate change as a reality.

This post was originally published by Treehugger.

 

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Photo from USDAgov via flickr

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67 comments

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9:44AM PST on Jan 13, 2012

We talked about cutting down some of our cedar trees, because they are notorious water hogs... we lost some of our oaks. :( The nurseries around here charge about $100 for one tiny little oak sapling, so we can't afford to replace them.

10:20AM PST on Jan 4, 2012

Mother Nature does not like to be f***** with and she's paying us back with a plethura of disasters. Tornados. hurricanes, mudslides, tsunamis and the list goes on.

Humans are solely responsible for the damage we've done to this earth. It would be one thing to hurt ourselves but the damage carries over to the innocents.....animals. They are innocent victims of human greed and indifference. I'm ashamed to be a human right now.

I can't even put my head around 500 million trees lost. It will take a lifetime for these trees to be replaced and grow to be big and strong.

2:07PM PST on Jan 1, 2012

and there isn't any climate change going on.....lol lol lol...

I love the trees, and really do not like the repugs that consider climate change as a hoax. When will they get out of their air conditioned offices and homes and see what they are helping to destroy.

4:39AM PST on Jan 1, 2012

We had a lot of rain here in Indiana. I wish we could have sent them some of ours.

My cousin lives in Texas and she said that they got used to the hot temps, but could not get used to no rain.

5:00PM PST on Dec 29, 2011

How awful. Hopefully they can come up with a large scale replanting plan.















11:18AM PST on Dec 29, 2011

This morning on the radio, I learned that the Southern drought ruined the peanut industry in Georgia and Texas—I did not even realize Texas had a strong, healthy peanut industry. I believe the news was claiming the heat and the lack of precipitation killed a large percentage of the industry in both states. And, I believe the news claimed that Georgia and Texas were the biggest providers of peanuts.

The various brands of peanut butter will be going up in prices soon. Some parts of Alaska sell peanut butter for around $10 a jar. For Alaskans, peanut butter is already a luxury. Raw peanuts, Spanish peanuts, honey roast peanuts, and mixed nuts, as well as trail mixes will go up in price as well.

I bet George Washington Carver would be floored to learn how much his peanut butter invention had truly influenced America. George Washington Carver researched and promoted alternative crops to cotton, and he promoted peanut, soybean, and sweet potato crops. He really was a brilliant man

I believe the news forewarned the public that by next summer we would see an extremely noticeable price increase in peanuts and peanut-by-products (is that the phrase?).

10:02AM PST on Dec 29, 2011

I am truly sorry for Texas, but it IS time to accept that we are killing our earth! I'm not sure planting new trees in the same area will do any good without more rain...

8:28PM PST on Dec 28, 2011

thanks for news

6:28PM PST on Dec 28, 2011

Very sad.

1:19PM PST on Dec 28, 2011

Judith E.,, Yes, I would imagine so, however I live in Ohio, which is too far from Texas to see for myself, but I do believe it. Right now, I am sooo close and yet so far from 'planting my first tree'.

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