Author: Alexis

California’s forests are being harmed by drought, wildfires and the death of two of the state’s largest animals

California's forests are being harmed by drought, wildfires and the death of two of the state's largest animals

Nearly a third of southern Sierra forests killed by drought and wildfire in last decade The worst drought California has seen in decades has killed more than a third of the state’s remaining forests, and has turned the state into a raging firestorm, according to scientists.

More than one-third of California’s remaining forests have died in the last decade — a tragedy that has prompted a government investigation and a presidential declaration of emergency.

California’s forests and tule elk habitat have been hammered by drought, record-breaking wildfires and the death of two of the state’s largest animals. The California Fire Authority has ordered a statewide tree mortality response, which could lead to massive cutbacks of trees.

The deadliest drought in California

“The effects of drought in our forests are devastating,” said David Williams, a scientist who studies forest health at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re seeing the effects of drought in our forests within 40 to 50 days of the rain ending.”

Williams said that about 40 percent of the trees in the Sierra Nevada in the last 15 years have died.

“It’s not just the forest fires, but it’s the tree mortality that’s killing the trees,” Williams said. “We’re seeing this tree mortality happening in the last 15 days, within a half a month.”

California’s deadliest wildfires

The deadliest fire that has been raging in California in the last decade is the Thomas fire, which started in San Diego County in December 2015 and burned across more than a dozen states.

More than 25,000 homes were destroyed, and the fire burned through more than 9,000 acres (3,480 hectares) of land in California, including areas where the endangered species, the Sierra Nevada snowcover, is endemic.

“We’re seeing this tree mortality happen in the last five months, within a month,” Williams said.

There are also a number of smaller blazes that are threatening the state’s forests, such as the Rim fire, which last summer burned about 800 acres (320 hectares).


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