Saturday, December 24, 2011

Up to a Half Billion Trees Killed by the Texas Drought

The reports just keep rolling in about effects of the hellish drought Texas suffered through this past year. Here is Reuters with yet another horrible story:
The massive drought that has dried out Texas over the past year has killed as many as half a billion trees, according to new estimates from the Texas Forest Service.

"In 2011, Texas experienced an exceptional drought, prolonged high winds, and record-setting temperatures," Forest Service Sustainable Forestry chief Burl Carraway told Reuters on Tuesday. "Together, those conditions took a severe toll on trees across the state."

He said that between 100 million and 500 million trees were lost. That figure does not include trees killed in wildfires that have scorched an estimated 4 million acres in Texas since the beginning of 2011. A massive wildfire in Bastrop, east of Austin in September that destroyed 1,600 homes, is blamed for killing 1.5 million trees.

The tree loss is in both urban and rural areas and represents as much as 10 percent of all the trees in the state, Carraway said.

"This is a generational event," Barry Ward, executive director of the nonprofit Trees for Houston, which supports forestry efforts, told Reuters on Tuesday. "Mature trees take 20 or 30 years to re-grow. This will make an aesthetic difference for decades to come."

He said the loss will affect the state in many ways. For example, there is increased fire danger because all the dead trees are now fuel, Ward said.
There's little doubt that should Texas suffer a series of summers like this past one that the quality of life, to say nothing of the ability of the landscape to support life, is going to plummet fast. And yet hope still prevails:
Forest Resource Analyst Chris Edgar said that trees and forests are amazingly resilient.

"Loss of trees due to adverse weather conditions is something that is a part of the natural process of the forest," said Edgar, who works for the Texas Forest Service.

One of the worst areas of die-off occurred in the part of east Texas known as the Piney Woods, he said. That is one of the country's leading producers of wood and paper products. It is still unclear what the long-term damage may be to that industry, which is one of the largest agricultural employers in the state.

Carraway said that what Mother Nature has damaged, Mother Nature can repair.

"Assuming the rainfall levels get back to normal, I certainly see the forest being able to recover," he said.
That's an iffy assumption at this point, Mr. Edgar. I hope for the sake of you and everyone else living in Texas that you are proven correct. But I sure wouldn't invest in any money in Texas woodlands right about now.

Bonus: Seems like an appropriate time for this song


  1. This story reminders me of a General Philip Sheridan quote. He was military governor of Texas right after the Civil War. When asked how he liked Texas, he replied “if I owned hell and Texas, I'd rent out Texas and live in hell”.

  2. Texas is a godawful place; the weather, the landscape, the politics. Why anyone would choose to live there is beyond me. As for the lack of rain, I guess the governor and his right-wing religious kook allies just didn't pray hard enough.