Quantcast
Popular
Dead and dying trees on forest lands in California, August 2016. USFS Region 5 Flickr

102 Million Trees Have Died in California's Drought

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.

"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 climate patterns 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 Now, wrote 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."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Part of the Sunoco Mariner East pipeline network in Pennsylvania. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

Another Sinkhole Opens Along Controversial Mariner East Pipeline Route

Sunoco's controversial Mariner East pipeline project in Pennsylvania is beginning 2019 on unstable ground, literally. A sinkhole opened in the suburban development of Lisa Drive in Chester County Sunday, exposing the old Mariner East 1 pipeline built in the 1930s.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Southwest Greenland had the most consistent ice loss from 2003 to 2012. Eqalugaarsuit, Ostgronland, Greenland on Aug. 1, 2018. Rob Oo / CC BY 2.0

Greenland Melting 4x Faster Than in 2013, and From an Unexpected Source

Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.

"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Judge Halts Seismic Testing Permits During Shutdown

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
Pxhere

DiCaprio-Funded Study: Staying Below 1.5ºC is Totally Possible

Climate change has been called the biggest challenge of our time. Last year, scientists with the United Nations said we basically have 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5ºC to avoid planetary catastrophe.

Amid a backdrop of rising global carbon emissions, there's a real case for pessimism. However, many scientists are hopeful of a way out.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Martin Luther King Jr. at steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

MLK Would Have Been an Environmental Leader, Too

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s words and actions continue to resonate on the 90th anniversary of his birth.

As the country honors the life and legacy of the iconic civil rights leader today, we are reminded that the social justice and the climate movements are deeply connected.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A great tit family and nest. Bak GiSeok / 500px / Getty Images

Climate Change Leading to Fatal Bird Conflicts

By Marlene Cimons

Most Europeans know the great tit as an adorable, likeable yellow-and-black songbird that shows up to their feeders in the winter. But there may be one thing they don't know. That cute, fluffy bird can be a relentless killer.

The great tit's aggression can emerge in gruesome ways when it feels threatened by the pied flycatcher, a bird that spends most of the year in Africa, but migrates to Europe in the spring to breed. When flycatchers arrive at their European breeding grounds, they head for great tit territory, knowing that great tits—being year-round European residents—know the best nesting sites.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Saving the World’s Largest Tropical Wetland

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

35,000 Protestors in Berlin Call for Agricultural Revolution

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!