Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Drought Takes Toll On Forests

A combination of drought and insect infestation has taken its toll this year on trees throughout the Southwest, but state and federal forestry officials said Wednesday the effects in southern New Mexico have been particularly striking. Brown patches of ponderosa pine trees have been surveyed across tens of thousands of acres of the Lincoln National Forest, particularly in the Sacramento Mountains. Here, the number of acres showing signs of tree mortality has jumped from 380 in 2010 to 41,000 acres this year. The Mescalero Apache tribe has seen more than a 140-fold increase, with tree mortality reported on some 22,000 acres this year. The story is the same for state and private land. “It’s a significant jump, and it’s because drought has stressed the trees and this has allowed the population of bark beetles to attack more trees,” said Katherine Sanchez Meador, a spokeswoman for the Lincoln National Forest. If the drought persists, she said tree stress and mortality will likely increase next year. Land managers have been busy this week poring over new aerial and ground surveys done on forest lands in New Mexico and Arizona. The annual surveys look for everything from signs of bark beetles to declines in aspen stands...more

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