New study: tree mortality rates double in the west

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A new study released on January 22 by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the journal Science suggests that there will be more dead fuel available for wildland fires. Warming temperatures are responsible for the death rates of trees in the western U.S. and Canada doubling over the last two decades in old-growth stands. Phillip van Mantgem, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist and co-leader of the research team, said forests are losing trees faster than new ones are able to grow.

Temperatures in California, Colorado, British Columbia, and Arizona have risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit during the last 20 years, reducing the snowpacks and lengthening summer droughts. The higher temperatures may also be aiding insects and diseases, further increasing tree mortality.

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