Drier summers killed Oregon's native trees

Oregon's iconic Douglas firs are declining as the state's summers have grown hotter and drier.

Posted: Jul 22, 2019 10:50 AM
Updated: Jul 22, 2019 1:27 PM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's iconic Douglas firs are declining as the state's summers have grown hotter and drier.

The Statesman Journal reports that drought also is killing grand fir, and may be contributing to declines in Western red cedar and bigleaf maple.

Oregon has experienced drought each summer since 2012, peaking in 2015. While rainfall and snowpack have been close to average the past two years, temperatures in many areas still were above normal.

Oregon Department of Forestry scientists conduct statewide aerial and ground tree surveys across 30 million acres each year, recording the number of dead and dying trees.

In 2018, about 680,000 acres contained damaged or dead trees attributed to all causes. That's fewer than at the peak of the drought but still higher than historic levels.

Christine Buhl, an entomologist for the Oregon Department of Forestry, said Douglas firs have been declining since Oregon's drought began in 2012.

"Now, we're seeing Doug fir dying in other areas where maybe they could have lived before," Buhl said. That includes throughout the Willamette Valley.

Grand fir has been declining for years, especially in the Willamette Valley, as precipitation becomes less consistent.

"We might get a dump of water one day, and nothing for a week," Buhl said. "At a certain point in size these grand firs reach, they can't withstand that any longer."

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