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Drought Threatens California's Oaks, Giant Sequoias

Joe Moore
Valley Public Radio
A blue oak tree in the Central California foothills. Ecologist Todd Dawson with UC Berkeley says the drought is also affecting blue oak trees in the Central Valley and coastal redwoods. Even the iconic Giant Sequoia is showing signs of poor health. (file

The drought in California has killed millions of trees in the Southern Sierra Nevada. But the problem is more widespread. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, some ecologists say the state could lose some of its iconic trees.

A US Forest Service aerial survey in April found 20 percent of the trees in a 4.1  million acre area in the Southern Sierra were dead. Jeff Moore conducts those surveys.

Moore: “Those areas in particular have been suffering from the most severe drought conditions for the longest period of time and now the effects are really becoming apparent.”

UC Berkeley ecologist Todd Dawson says coastal redwoods are losing their foliage in the drought. And he says leaves on Blue Oak trees in the Central Valley are only a quarter of the size they should be.

Dawson: “People are making these observations across the state, so all the way from Southern California even up into the northern parts of the Central Valley, and I think the only place we’re not seeing real severe effects are up the northwestern part of California.”

Even the iconic Giant Sequoia is showing signs of poor health.

Dawnson: “In some of the places where they grow close to streams they can be shallowly rooted and it’s probably those trees that are going to be the most severely affected and the ones that we’ve seen actually leaves falling off of most significantly.”

The US Forest Service plans to conduct a new aerial survey to determine any further mortality, especially among oak trees.

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