California’s tree mortality – in pictures

Text by Anders Lorenzen

Photos by Mette Lampcov

Have you heard about California’s tree mortality? If you hadn’t we guess you’re probably not alone. There has been general knowledge about California’s prolonged drought, the lack of snow at mountain peaks and the increase of forest fires which many scientists link to climate change. But the worsening of the state of the trees has received very little news coverage so far.

But below these Instagram posts from Danish photojournalist, Mette Lampcov beautifully captures the tree mortality in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. They were created for #everydayclimatechange, an Instagram channel which raises awareness about climate change. Her photos illustrate how the social media network can be used for displaying photojournalism and raise awareness about important issues.

Lampcov writes on Instagram ‘People working in the forests ( they do not want to be named ) feel these forests that are left untreated and the level of mortality presents a massive fire threat and is an ecological catastrophe waiting to happen. Among experts, there is a general consensus that it is the heat itself (rising temperatures due to climate change ) that is contributing to the death of millions of trees and increasingly larger wildfires. The Sierra Nevadas have seen unprecedented levels of tree mortality with as many as 129 million trees across 8.9 million acres lost. Overgrown and unhealthy forests provide optimum conditions for the spread of Bark Beetles. With so many trees competing for water and other resources during the extreme and prolonged drought California faced between 2011 and 2017, many fell into distress, making them more susceptible to the Bark Beetle. California has seen an increase in warming of around 1-2C over the past century. In a recent study, climate scientists at UCLA project big increases in the frequency of extreme events at both ends of the wet-dry spectrum: big flood-inducing storms as well as droughts. California can expect further warming of 3-5C by the end of the century under “business-as-usual” increases in greenhouse gases.’

View this post on Instagram

Posting for @everydayclimatechange for the week to talk about the large scale Tree Mortality in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. This level of tree mortality is caused by a variety of factors and a combination of events, driven by climate change. Long drought, little rain and an increase in warmer extreme temperatures in general affecting California has left the trees under a huge amount of stress and susceptible to beetle infestation as they are too weak to fight back. Sheri Smith, the entomology program manager in the US Forest Service's Pacific Southwest region said; Stressed trees are suitable host material for bark beetles and their successful colonization results in more beetles and high levels of tree mortality.” When beetle populations are low, healthy trees often produce enough resinous pitch to drown and “pitchout” the beetles that attempt to enter. When trees are stressed they may be unable to produce sufficient amounts of defensive pitch. When beetle populations are high, even an apparently healthy tree may not be able to produce enough pitch to ward off hundreds of attacks (a mass attack). In addition, many beetles carry fungi that further impair the tree’s defense system. 1. A group of dead trees stand brown and lifeless in a forest clearing. 2. Galleries of the western pine beetle, The female lays her eggs, and as the larvae grow they feed on the inner bark and cambium layer, creating these spaghetti looking patterns. 3. A tree that has died, where you can see it been trying to pitch and defend itself. Often trees are still green as they die, they don't “know” yet they have died. #climatechangeisreal #trees #californialandscape #california #climatechange #nature #landscapephotography #sierranevada #photojournalism #documentaryphotography #watertodustphotoproject #america #home #climatechnageinamerica

A post shared by mette lampcov (@mettelampcov) on

View this post on Instagram

Posting on @everydayclimatechange for the week to talk about the large scale Tree Mortality in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. Franky and Sam are standing outside their home that a dead tree had fallen on a couple of nights before. The couple had been woken at night by the tree falling on their home with a loud bang, they got so frightened that Franky nearly jumped out from the second floor. Since moving in, 3 trees have fallen on their home. As a new incoming storm is approaching, the couple have decided to leave their home to visit family in an another area. Although energy company PG&E initially removed 23 trees from the Johnsons' property free of charge to prevent damage to their power lines — something other stakeholders in the area have been doing to protect their infrastructure — the couple says there are still close to 15 trees within striking distance of their home. Home owes are left with the responsibly to remove the reming dead trees that can cost as much as $1,000 to have professionally removed. Since 2014 the Sierra Nevadas has seen unprecedented levels of tree mortality with as many as 129 million trees across 8.9 million acres lost. Where once stood a lush, green forest, there are now trees turning yellow and brown. The alarmingly accelerated pace of their death has been linked to the stress caused by climate change, more specifically increased temperatures, years of severe drought, and an unhealthy overgrowth due to years of fire suppression, which led to a significant spike in bark beetle infestations. #climatechangeisreal #trees #californialandscape #california #climatechange #nature #landscapephotography #sierranevada #photojournalism #documentaryphotography #watertodustphotoproject #america #home #climatechangeinAmerica #science #factsmatter

A post shared by mette lampcov (@mettelampcov) on

View this post on Instagram

Posting on @everydayclimatechange for the week to talk about the large scale Tree Mortality in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. A logger surveys an area designated by forest management for dead tree removal. One of the ways that the large amount of dead trees are managed is by thinning out the forest and logging the dead trees. A Tree Mortality Task Force, that was setup to help manage federal and state agencies in response to the large die off, either use the felling of trees or prescribed burns to manage these forests. The Task Force has removed more than 840,000 trees since 2015. Overgrown and unhealthy forests provide optimum conditions for the spread of bark beetles, and with so many trees competing for water and other resources during the extreme and prolonged drought California faced between 2011 and 2017, many fell into distress, making them more susceptible to the bark beetle. In many areas of the southern Sierra, more than 50 percent of pines, and as much 80 to 100 percent in the heavily impacted areas, have died. California has seen an increase in warming of around 1-2C over the past century or so, due to increases in greenhouse gases. Without a significant decrease of emission warming in the coming century is predicted to be much be much steeper. #climatechangeisreal #trees #californialandscape #california #climatechange #nature #landscapephotography #sierranevada #photojournalism #documentaryphotography #watertodustphotoproject #america #home #forest #mountains

A post shared by mette lampcov (@mettelampcov) on

View this post on Instagram

Posting for the week to talk about the large scale Tree Mortality in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. Smoke is rising from the forest as a prescribed burn that was set days before is slowing moving along Shaver Lake, California. These prescribed burns are done to help restore over-populated forests, and help remove dead trees that are considered fire hazards. When in the area all you smell is smoke from the set fires and hear the sound of chainsaws used by loggers and people that are cutting down dead trees to protect their properties. It is a constant reminder of the scale of the tree deaths and the impact on people and our surrounding nature and environment. Since 2014 the Sierra Nevadas has seen unprecedented levels of tree mortality with as many as 129 million trees across 8.9 million acres lost. Where once stood a lush, green forest, there are now trees turning yellow and brown. The alarmingly accelerated pace of their death has been linked to the stress caused by climate change, more specifically increased temperatures, years of severe drought, and an unhealthy overgrowth due to years of fire suppression, which led to a significant spike in bark beetle infestations. #climatechangeisreal #trees #californialandscape #california #climatechange #nature #landscapephotography #sierranevada #photojournalism #documentaryphotography #forest #climatechnageinamerica #water

A post shared by mette lampcov (@mettelampcov) on

View this post on Instagram

Looking up at a group of dead trees, where you can see visible damage of bark beetle attack. People working in the forests ( they do not want to be named ) feel these forests that are left untreated and the level of mortality presents a massive fire threat, and is an ecological catastrophe waiting to happen. Among experts there is general consensus that it is the heat itself (rising temperatures due to climate change ) that is contributing to the death of millions of trees and increasingly larger wildfires. Posting for the week to talk about the large scale Tree Mortality in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. The Sierra Nevadas have seen unprecedented levels of tree mortality with as many as 129 million trees across 8.9 million acres lost. Overgrown and unhealthy forests provide optimum conditions for the spread of Bark Beetles. With so many trees competing for water and other resources during the extreme and prolonged drought California faced between 2011 and 2017, many fell into distress, making them more susceptible to the Bark Beetle. California has seen an increase in warming of around 1-2C over the past century. In a recent study, climate scientists at UCLA project a big increases in the frequency of extreme events at both ends of the wet-dry spectrum: big flood-inducing storms as well as droughts. California can expect further warming of 3-5C by the end of the century under “business-as-usual” increases in greenhouse gases. #climatechangeisreal #trees #californialandscape #california #climatechange #nature #landscapephotography #sierranevada #photojournalism #documentaryphotography #watertodustphotoproject #america #wildfire #forest #naturephotography

A post shared by mette lampcov (@mettelampcov) on

View this post on Instagram

A prescribed fire is reflecting on Shaver Lake, California on a late November evening. My last post for the @everydayclimatechange take over for the week -to talk about the large scale Tree Mortality in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. This will be last post for this @everydayclimatechange -Thank you for following. As I come to an end talking about the devastating tree mortality and bark beetle infestation that has killed over 129 million tree in the Sierra Nevada mountains that is driven by climate change I want to leave you with the words from an interview I did with an expert government Entomologist. “ I have experienced a few protracted drought periods in CA since I starting working here in 1990, so I had seen high levels of forest tree mortality in different parts of the State. However, I had never seen such high levels of ponderosa pine and sugar pine mortality as I have observed over the past several years. Sugar pines are my favorite trees in the forests, so it was and still is extremely sad for me to see how many large majestic pines were killed during this event, and to realize how long it is going take to have similar size trees back in those areas; it won’t be during my lifetime. -People will often rather look the other way as we only have ourselves to blame, it is our actions that have led us here and it’s only our actions that can change the outcome of our future- information is our power. Thank you @jameswhitlowdelano and @everydayclimatechange for this very important space. #climatechangeisreal #trees #californialandscape #california #climatechange #nature #landscapephotography #sierranevada #documentaryphotography #forest #lakes #naturephotography #nightphotography #fire

A post shared by mette lampcov (@mettelampcov) on

Advertisements

2 responses to “California’s tree mortality – in pictures

  1. Pingback: Analysis: Is burning biomass worse than coal? UK’s largest power station under scrutiny by UK broadcaster for for it’s biomass policy? | A greener life, a greener world·

  2. Pingback: How REDD+ benefits rural Kenyan communities – Video | A greener life, a greener world·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s