Millions Of Trees Are Threatened By California Drought, Says Study

Posted: Dec 29 2015, 9:03am CST | by , Updated: Dec 29 2015, 10:28pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Millions of Trees are Threatened by California Drought, Says Study
Progressive water stress on Califoria forests from 2011 to 2015. Credit: Greg Asner

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Around 58 million trees are at risk of dying due to historic California drought.

California forests are facing a huge threat in the form of severe on-going drought.

Using laser technology and aerial imaging, Carnegie Science researchers have portrayed a grim of California forests that contain some of the oldest, enormous and tallest trees on earth.

According to new research, around 58 million large trees in California are experiencing severe water loss due to the historic drought. Moreover, low rainfall, high temperatures and outbreaks of destructive insects all have contributed in destroying trees and increasing the risk of their deaths.

“California relies on its forests for water provisioning and carbon storage, as well as timber products, tourism and recreation, so they are tremendously important ecologically, economically and culturally,” said Greg Asner, lead author of the study. “The drought put the forests in tremendous peril, a situation that may cause long-term changes in ecosystems that could impact animal habitats and biodiversity.”

To measure the full impact of California’s drought, Asner and his colleagues used laser-guided imaging spectroscopy tools mounted on Carnegie Airborne Observatory for the first time. With these advanced tools, they monitored about 41,000 miles of forests and found that 888 million trees have lost considerable amount of water since 2011 but around 58 million trees are particularly at high risk of dying as they have lost around 30% of their total water.

“Our high-resolution mapping approach identifies vulnerable trees and changing landscapes,” said Asner. “Continued airborne and satellite monitoring will enable actions on the ground to mitigate a cascade of negative impacts from forest losses due to drought, as well as aid in monitoring forest recovery if and when the drought subsides.”

Given the severity of the situation and with the expected increased rainfall due to El Nino, if drought happens again in future, it will further weaken the trees and ecosystem of forests. The research will help relevant authorities to take appropriate actions for the recovery of trees and limit the damaging effects of four-year long drought.

“The Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s research provides invaluable insight into the severity of drought impacts in California’s iconic forests,” said Ashley Conrad-Saydah, deputy secretary for climate policy at the California Environmental Protection Agency.

“It will be important to bring their cutting-edge data and expertise to bear as the state seeks to address the effects of this epidemic of dying trees and aid in the recovery of our forests.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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