The current Texas drought has killed as many as 500 million trees 10 percent of the state’s forest cover and the end is not in sight, according to the Texas Forest Service. Some of the hardest-hit areas are in Central Texas.
The numbers are preliminary, the first results from an unprecedented statewide survey of tree mortality across 63 million acres of forest land this year.
They don’t include trees lost to drought-induced wildfire — an estimated 1.5 million trees burned in the Bastrop Labor Day fires alone — or trees that have succumbed to heat and thirst in urban areas.
Though the estimated range of dead trees varies widely — from a low of 100 million to a high of 500 million — the visible evidence of the die-off is still “very shocking,” said Tom Boggus, director of the Texas Forest Service. “It’s a significant change in the landscape.”
And the stress of the past year of record-setting heat, high winds and low rainfall will continue to take its toll on living trees, whether or not the drought continues as forecast for at least another six months, because they have been too weakened to survive.
“We recognize that the mortality will increase even if it started raining,” said Burl Carraway, head of sustainable forestry for the Forest Service.
Read the rest, if you can stand it. We really, really, really, need a lot of rain.