usatoday | Hundreds of thousands of trees died in the historic drought of 2012, and many more will succumb in the next few years, scientists say.
"This is just beginning," says Janna Beckerman, a plant pathologist at Indiana's Purdue University. "I suspect we'll see trees still dying for the next two or three years."
Indiana's white cedar and Florida cypress trees began dying in late summer, she says, and Alberta and Colorado blue spruce are succumbing now.
Trees affected by a 2010-11 drought still are dying across Louisiana, says Keith Hawkins, a Louisiana State University AgCenter forester. Some trees "reached a threshold from which they can't recover — especially older, larger trees," he says.
About 301 million trees died in rural Texas because of that drought, the Texas A&M Forest Service says.
Tree deaths are dismaying some communities:
- Brookings, S.D., has lost about 300 trees to drought, says Peter Colson, director of the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. "It's expensive," he says. "The trees we plant run $35 to $200 a pop." The city cut back on tree planting last fall because "we didn't have the manpower or equipment to water hundreds of trees," Colson says.
- More than half the 88 big trees marked for removal in McPherson, Kan., last year "died just from drought," says city parks superintendent Paul Katzer. "We'll lose another 100 to 150 trees just from drought this year." For the first time, the city is siphoning water from two lakes to water trees this winter, he says.
- Brett O'Brien, natural resources supervisor for the Columbia, Mo., Parks and Recreation Department, says "a significant number" of that city's trees died because of dry conditions. "We lost a lot of Norway spruce and white pines, and some of the oaks, too," he says.
O'Brien is hesitant to plant new trees because "we have not really left the drought yet," he says. When he does replant, he's considering less vulnerable species such as the Kentucky coffeetree.