An astounding 102 million trees are now dead in California

Forest managers have never seen anything like it. Across California, an astounding 102 million trees have died over the past six years from drought and disease — including 62 million trees in 2016 alone, the US Forest Service estimates. Once-mighty oaks and pines have faded into ghastly hues of brown and gray.

The biggest worry is that these dead, dry forests will become highly combustible when California’s annual fire season rolls around next summer. The south and central Sierra Nevada regions, where most of the dead trees are located, are at particular risk of severe wildfires.

So how did we get to this point? And what can be done? “When you’re talking about tree mortality, it’s a whole bunch of things linked together,” says David Rizzo, chair of the plant pathology department at the University of California Davis.

“The current drought is important, but you also have to look at land-use and management decisions that go back a long time.”

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