Survey identifies more than 102 milion dead trees in Calif.

These dead trees now encompass ten counties in the southern and central Sierra Nevada. (Nov. 21, 2016)

California trees are dying at an astounding rate and it's at the highest it’s ever been.

The number of dead trees continues to be a problem in California and has reached over 102 million since 2010, according to the aerial survey released by the U.S. Forest Service.

Since the last survey in May, there has been an estimated additional increase of 36 million bringing the total in 2016 to 62 million trees that have died.

This joint statement on Friday by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Forest Service is gaining a lot more attention, especially with officials stating that millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years.

"The forests in California are changing rapidly given the number of dead trees." said Chris Fischer, Deputy Director of the State and Private Forestry. "In the past three years it has grown exponentially." 

A few components are aiding the number of trees dying with none more notable then the continual drought conditions and bark beetles.

Though the Forest Service is in the process of studying which one specifically has the greater impact, both are seemingly related to each other, because the lack of moisture makes trees more susceptible to bark beetles.

Trees generally ward off the beetles by the moisture they produce, but with the lack of moisture they're currently receiving, bark beetles are rapidly fluctuating overwhelming the trees.

Despite this fact, there are dead trees that span across all ownership, from residential neighborhoods to private property, not just forests.

About 76 of the 102 million dead trees are located in ten counties of the southern and central Sierra Nevada region, according to Fischer. That list of 10 includes Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Madera, Mariposa, Placer, Tulare and Tuolumne. 

"This affects many things as these forests provide water, power and clean air as well as recreation opportunities and forest products people depend on." Fischer said.

The Forest Service is a part of the governor's state task force working hard with Cal Fire, Caltrans and PG&E to mitigate the trees with the greatest hazard risks. In doing so this reduces fire risk, which is highly possible due to these trees being fire prone especially when the dead material falls to the ground acting as dry fuel for wildfires.

These hazards pose as risks for communities with its residents being adjacent to the dead trees.

Fischer says that they have re-prioritized about $43 million to combat the problem, though he's unsure of what the state has spent.

Scientists say there's about a two year recovery window for the trees if a normal amount of rainfall happens for two years. So, if this trend of no rainfall persists then Fischer believes there may not be as much forest in the future.

Copyright 2016 KXTV


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