California wildfires are not the only thing destroying trees, pests and fungi who live off the trees are contributing to the already millions of dead trees in the state. The long existing drought in California has not only dehydrated the trees, but it has weakened the trees defenses against pests and fungi.
A majority of the trees that are dying are located in the central Sierra Nevada range. More than 200 million trees have been destroyed as a result of engraver beetle infestations since 2010.
In an interview with the OC Register, U.S. Geological Survey Forest ecologist Nathan Stephenson, who monitors the Sierra Nevada says, “Drought sets the foundation for bark beetles. Even with terrible drought, amplified by climate change, many trees could have still likely persisted under dehydrated, stressed conditions. But with no energy to spend on fighting native bark beetle invasions by releasing toxic resins, the trees are defenseless.”
Cal Fire made the announcement in December that it will provide up to $120 million in grants to its neighborhood partners in order to reduce fuels, carry out planned burns, and control infestations. The grant funds can be used for property spending, conservation improvements, or reforestation.
The evaluation reports from Cal Fire are available here.
The U.S. Forest Service meeting info sheet on drought and tree mortality may be found here.