Headline: California tree carnage: A decade of drought and fire killed a third of Sierra Nevada forests
The analysis mentioned in the Steel report we’ve been discussing. Excerpt:
California has seen devastating bouts of drought and record-breaking wildfire events in the last several years. From 2011-2020, a combination of fire, drought and drought-related bark beetle infestations killed 30% of forests in the Sierra Nevada mountain range between Lake Tahoe and Kern County, according to the analysis.
On top of the overall decline in total conifer forest in the region, half of mature forest habitat and 85% of high-density mature forests were either wiped out entirely or became low-density forests.
The study also found areas protected as habitat for the California spotted owl, an endangered bird at the center of a historic battle between environmental activists and the timber industry, saw worse declines in tree canopy than non-protected areas.
That finding led the study’s authors to call for a rejection of traditional conservation methods that preserve forests as-is, before the loss of all mature forests in the Sierras. Using fire as a tool for landscape regeneration and removing low-lying vegetation can keep fires from becoming as devastating.