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Drought Affects nearly One Billion Trees in California

Posted by feww on December 31, 2015

Ecological catastrophe: 29 million trees dead, 58 million more on the brink

New research by a Carnegie research team has revealed that up to 58 million large trees in California has experienced “severe canopy water loss between 2011 and today due to the state’s historic drought.”

The U.S. Forest Service says more than 29 million trees in California forests have already died.

“In addition to the persistently low rainfall, high temperatures and outbreaks of the destructive bark beetle increased forest mortality risk.”

The team used laser-guided imaging spectroscopy tools that are mounted on the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) to measure the full impact of the drought on California’s forests, and combined the CAO data with satellite data starting 2011.

The team’s advanced tools showed that about 41,000 square miles (10.6 million hectares) of forest containing up to 888 million large trees experienced measurable losses of canopy water between 2011 and 2015.  Of this group, up to 58 million large trees reached water loss thresholds that the scientists deemed extremely threatening to long-term forest health.”

Should drought conditions persist, the team concluded, there would be substantial changes to already significantly weakened forest structures and ecosystems in the near future, given the severity of the exiting conditions.


Progressive forest canopy water stress in the state of California from 2011 to 2015. Credit: Greg Asner

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