A few rainstorms won't be enough to save the West Coast from one of the worst droughts they've ever seen, says the U.S. Forest Service.
While El Niño has brought much-needed rains to California and other states in the West, the region is still under serious threat from drought. According to a report from SF Chronicle, the U.S. Forest Service just released a study warning that the historic drought in the West is far from over, and could have far reaching impacts on the region’s ecosystems and economy.
The report, coming in at 300 pages, was entitled “Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States.” While the title certainly isn’t very scary, the contents tell a story of hot, dry, and extreme weather that could lead to a number of nasty outcomes for western states. Among these include insect invasions, tree and plant die-offs, more intense and costly wildfires, and a widespread economic downturn affecting industries from logging to agriculture.
According to report co-author Toral Patel-Weynand, the director of sustainable forest research at the U.S. Forest Service, “There are growing concerns that extreme precipitation events, droughts and warmer temperatures will accelerate tree and shrub death. In addition to that, we obviously have impacts on timber, seed production, water and recreational activities.”
The study involved 77 researchers from the U.S. Forest Service and a long list of universities, NGOs, and national laboratories. It combined years of peer-reviewed studies to create a comprehensive review of the massive drought’s effects on western states, seeking to provide the best information to rangeland managers and forest supervisors as they battle the constantly changing landscape across more than 193 million acres of national lands. 21 million of these acres are found in California forests alone.
A recent study from researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science revealed that up to 58 million trees in the redwood forests on California’s North Coast all the way down to the southern Sierra pines were currently severe water loss. Another study showed that the drought has so far resulted in the death of more than 12 million trees.
A press release from the US Forest Service describing the details of the recent report can be found here.