Trees are dying at an ‘unprecedented’ rate due to drought, warmer weather and a bark beetle epidemic, prompting the US agriculture secretary’s warning
The number of trees in California’s Sierra Nevada forests killed by drought, a bark beetle epidemic and warmer temperatures has dramatically increased since last year, raising fears that they will fuel catastrophic wildfires and endanger people’s lives, officials said on Wednesday.
Since 2010, an estimated 66 million trees have died in a six-county region of the central and southern Sierra hardest hit by the epidemic, the US Forest Service said.
Officials flying over the region captured images of dead patches that have turned a rust-colored red. The mortality from Tuolumne to Kern counties has increased by 65% since the last count announced in October, which found 40m dead trees.
California is in the fifth year of a historic drought, which officials say has deprived trees of water, making them more vulnerable to attack from beetles.
Governor Jerry Brown in October declared an emergency, forming a taskforce charged with finding ways to remove the trees that threaten motorists and mountain communities.