Why California Trees Are In Critical Danger

California trees are dying from prolonged drought and disease.

By Tiffany Velasquez | Published

California trees

California trees are suffering due to disease and drought. The state has been experiencing the hottest and driest climate on record for the past two years. In 2021, around 9.5 million trees were estimated to have died in California, and that number increased by 26.8 million in 2022.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service conducted an aerial survey of private, state, and federal land that determined that, in total, around 36.3 million trees were dead. The trees died from the effects of prolonged drought, disease, and an abundance of bugs. Currently, crews are working to remove dead California trees from the area to stimulate new growth and improve the health of the surrounding forest.

Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, the state of California has been experiencing extreme weather in the form of severe drought and record-high temperatures. The extreme weather has made trees vulnerable to attacks from bark beetle and several kinds of diseases. In areas of the forest where the California trees are packed close together, the forest is more susceptible to disease and premature death.

In the Sierra Nevada Range and farther north, the California trees are experiencing the highest death rate. An estimated 2.6 million acres of trees are currently dead in this specific region as the weather conditions are more extreme. That acreage of dead trees is expected to increase by a significant amount.

There are several species of conifer trees that have been hit particularly hard. In the areas where the conifers have been hit the hardest, the area is the driest. The situation is proving to be dire, and it is unclear how many trees will die in total and when the forest will recover.

California trees recently felt a break in the drought due to torrential rain. This has little effect on the health of the trees that were already suffering. Even with the amount of rain the state received, some parts of the state still feel the effects of the prolonged drought.

The fact that parts of California are still experiencing drought shows just how severe the drought was and that the California trees were and are trying to make it through. Back-to-back rainfall is not ideal as it causes mudslides and landslides that could potentially kill people and destroy the environment. This brings us to the question, what is going to happen, and how will the health of the California trees improve?

In late 2022, an announcement was made by CAL Fire that it was offering up to $120 million in grants. This grant money has been set aside to improve the overall health of the forest in a number of different ways. The CAL Fire is working with local partners to improve California trees’ health through reforestation, conservation, fuel reduction, managing pests, controlled burns, and more.

The Forest Service has declared this a full-blown health crisis. If the California trees’ health does not improve and the forest does not experience regrowth at a reasonable rate, there could be a devastating effect on the ecosystem.