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Millions of California trees dead in 2016 due to drought, insects

Tom Wilmer
Water resources in the Sierras are at critical levels.

More than 100 million trees have died in California since 2010, according to data released Friday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Two-thirds - or 62 million - have died just in the past year.

The majority of the dead trees are located in the southern and central Sierra Nevada regions.


KCBX recently spoke with Cal Poly Biology Professor Matt Ritter and he said most died due to insects feeding on weak, drought-ridden trees. California began experiencing mild drought conditions in 2012; this year the governor's office declared the state in an "exceptional drought."


"Then, everything came out of the woodwork to eat those trees," Ritter said. "So they actually die of insect diseases and fungal diseases and so on. But really the cause is the fact that they didn't get any water for four years."


The U.S. Forest Service said that they’ve received $43 million to help impacted forests, but it isn’t quite enough to support the dying trees in this historic year. Forest Service officials said most of the funding is going to firefighting rather than pre-fire conservation efforts.


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