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BRIEFS

Drought takes toll on trees

June 29, 2004|Bonnie Obremski

Forests across California and the West are getting more and more crispy with each year of drought, turning evergreen woodlands to brown tinder and creating prime conditions for more destructive wildfires, a new survey shows.

Examining Southern California timber that was first surveyed in 1995, members of the U.S. Forest Service's Remote Sensing Lab found nearly one in four trees in the Cleveland National Forest had died, some from insect and disease and the rest in last year's firestorm.

About one tree in eight died in the San Bernardino National forest. Most of the dead trees were conifers.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported last week that the West is in the grips of the worst drought in 500 years.

"There's whole mountains of dead trees," says Tom Gaman of East-West Forestry Associates Inc., author of the study published this month. "This is the most dramatic tree mortality we've seen in a while."

-- Bonnie Obremski

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