Drought Kills Half a Billion Texas Trees
The Texas Forest Service reports the unrelenting Texas drought has killed as many as 500 million mature trees -- 10 percent of the state's entire forest cover -- and the end is not in sight.
The shocking preliminary numbers are the first results from an unprecedented statewide survey of tree mortality across 63 million acres of Texas forest land this year.
Although the drought played a role in a large number of wildfires, it didn't cause all of them, so the 500 million estimate does not include trees that were lost to wildfires, or trees that succumbed to heat and thirst in urban areas.
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 the drought continues as forecast for at least another six months or not, because they are too weak to survive.
Foresters say the drought has decimated large numbers of tough native species such as ashe juniper (commonly referred to as cedar), cedar elm, post oaks and the loblolly pines of East Texas.
Three multicounty areas, including one in east Texas, appear to be the hardest hit. Loblolly pines — the state's most valuable commercial timber crop, used for lumber, pulp and paper products — are dying in Harris, Montgomery, Grimes, Madison and Leon counties.
The Forest Service says about two-thirds of all the pine seedlings planted in East Texas this year have died. About half the seedlings planted two seasons ago have also died, but foresters say they'll plant again next year because forests are very resilient.
The Forest Service estimates there are about 4.9 billion mature trees in Texas, which may come as news to people in the northeast, many of whom really believe Texas has nothing but desert, cactus and tumbleweeds.
If this drought doesn't end soon, much of the state WILL look like that.