More Bad News for California: Forests at Greater Risk of Fire
A collaborative research effort from multiple U.S. institutions compared Californian forests in their present state to that of the early 20th century and found that they are more dense, contain fewer trees and more small growth, and are at an increased risk of fire. Census data recorded during years 1929 and 1936 were compared to similar data collected in 2001 and 2010.
The data indicated that large-tree density is reduced by up to 50% in certain areas and been replaced by small trees and brush. This is possibly related to increased stress and changes in fire management; before these areas were inhabited, fires initiated by lightning would burn thousands of acres before naturally dying out. Now, fires are suppressed as quickly as possible to protect nearby buildings, preserving many of the small, dry trees that become fuel for worse wildfires. The study also shows that there is an increase in the oak populations and a decline in pine populations as a result of the drought.
These findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Image by John McColgan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons