This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
California won’t be throwing much shade this summer. It would need trees to do that. Last year, almost 30 million trees died in the Golden State — and that number is expected to double or triple by the end of 2016. The high mortality rates come at a time when the state needs healthy forests most, with climate change looming always and a La Niña — El Niño’s dry hermana — on the way.
The likely outcome? California’s landscape will radically transform, starting with a surge of wildfires that will trigger mudslides, diminished water quality, and the rise of new vegetation.
None of this should be surprising, considering the stress California’s forests have been under. The Golden State is facing its fifth year of severe drought — one of its driest periods in the last century. “Tree mortality will continue until drought conditions subside,” says John Heil, press officer at the U.S. Forest Service. That has left millions of trees thirstier than a college kid with a hangover.
Thirsty trees don’t just up and die. They beco... Read more