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Drought's harm to California forests more severe than feared

Staff writer ▼ | February 4, 2016
Worsening drought conditions may be doing more damage to forests in California and throughout the West than their ecosystems can handle.
California forest
Nature   Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands
That couldcould have a devastating impact, a U.S. Forest Service study showed.

The report “Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States” outlines how hotter, drier and more extreme weather will spark massive insect outbreaks, tree and plant die-offs, bigger and more costly wildfires, and economic impacts to timber and rangeland habitat.

“There are growing concerns that extreme precipitation events, droughts and warmer temperatures will accelerate tree and shrub death,” said report co-author Toral Patel-Weynand, the Forest Service’s director of sustainable forest research.

“In addition to that, we obviously have impacts on timber, seed production, water and recreational activities.”

The study — by 77 scientists from the Forest Service, universities, non-governmental organizations and national labs — seeks to bring together years of peer-reviewed research and provide the best science to forest and rangeland managers as they grapple with the effects of climate change on the 193 million acres of national forest.

There are 21 million acres in California’s 18 national forests.