[LA Times] Drought kills 12 million trees in California’s national forests

May 7, 2015

 

A ridge on Laguna Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest is covered with dead Jeffrey pine trees, foreground, with a recent fire scar in the background. (Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service)

A ridge on Laguna Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest is covered with dead Jeffrey pine trees, foreground, with a recent fire scar in the background. (Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service)

[LOS ANGELES TIMES]

Rangers in the San Bernardino National Forest call them “red trees.”

Instead of the typical deep green color, large swaths of pine trees now don hues of death, their dehydrated needles turning brown and burnt-red because of the state’s worsening drought.

“Unlike back East, where you have fall colors, here it’s because the trees are dying,” said John Miller, a spokesman for the San Bernardino National Forest.

Years of extremely dry conditions are taking a heavy toll on forest lands across California and heightening the fire risk as summer approaches.

“The situation is incendiary,” William Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told The Times recently. “The national forest is stressed out.”

A new study by the U.S. Forest Service tried to assess the scope of the problem. Researchers estimated that the drought has killed off at least 12.5 million trees in California’s national forests during the drought.

The scientists expect the die-off to continue. “It is almost certain that millions more trees will die over the course of the upcoming summer as the drought situation continues and becomes ever more long term,” said biologist Jeffrey Moore, acting regional aerial survey program manager for the U.S. Forest Service.

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