Why California’s Droughts Killed More Than 100 Million Resilient Trees

WWF warns of worsening ‘superfires’ across Europe

Global conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned on Thursday of the risks from new faster-spreading “superfires” in the wake of heatwaves and droughts that have been afflicting Europe in what many see as a symptom of climate change. 

Although the Mediterranean is the area most affected by wildfires, traditionally wetter northern European countries have recently also struggled with huge forest blazes. 

An average of 300,000 hectares (740,000 acres) of forest burn every year in Europe, European data show…


Why California’s Droughts Killed More Than 100 Million Resilient Trees

A Sierra Nevada forest in August 2016, following several years of severe drought. U.S. Forest Service / Public Domain

The great drought in California that lasted from 2012 to 2015 technically began on October 1, 2011, the first day of what hydrologists consider the new water year. Things got warmer and drier from there, with 2014 as the warmest and driest since record-keeping began in 1895. The drought affected just about everyone and everything in the state, especially its trees. Now two California researchers have found that the problem went deeper than previously thought.

Their new study, published in the journal Nature Geosciences, posits that in the Sierra Nevada range that spans much of central California, the drought—unlike previous ones—resulted in deep soil drying, when the forest uses up the water from the deepest reaches of its root system.

“We knew the Sierra Nevada was changing. We happened to be in the right place at the right time,” says Roger Bales, coauthor of the study and director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. “Geez, we…


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