This is what long-term desertification looks like: The state of Texas lost 5.6 million urban trees — and as many as 500 million forest trees — in the drought that’s been going on since last year. That’s 10 percent of the city trees and 10 percent of the forest trees in the state. The urban trees alone provided an estimated $280 million in annual services (shading buildings, controlling stormwater runoff) and will cost $560 million to remove.
These are not some weaksauce hothouse trees, either. Texas is populated mostly by species like cedar and live oak that are already hardened against drought.
One more year of drought would mean that Austin could lose twice the number of trees it lost last year, because “so many trees have already gone through their reserves,” reports the Austin American-Statesman.