Three hundred million trees

That’s the latest estimate of the toll from last year’s drought.

The numbers are ugly. A whopping 301 million trees have died across state forestlands as a result of the 2011 drought, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported Tuesday.

The latest count was determined after a three-month, on-the-ground study of hundreds of forested plots, as well as satellite imagery from before and after the drought. It includes trees killed directly by the drought and those so weakened that they succumbed to insects and disease.

The Brazos Valley region took the heaviest hit, losing nearly 10 percent of its trees on forested land. North Texas and western northeast Texas lost 8.3 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively.

Harris County is included in the 6.5 percent loss in the western section of southeast Texas. That’s nearly 19 million fewer trees than the near 290 million live tree count before the drought. Far east stretches of southeast Texas got better news: a 1.3 percent loss, down 7.5 million trees from pre-drought 597.1 million live trees.

The full report, with a chart of the losses in each region, is here. The good news, if you can call it that, is that previous estimates of tree loss in Texas had ranged as high as 500 million. The bad news is that parts of the state, most notably in South Texas and the Panhandle, remain in exceptional or extreme drought. This estimate also doesn’t include the five million trees lost in the cities to the drought. Let’s hope it’s a long time before we have another year like 2011.

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