COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Forestry crews will spend the next two months trekking across the Lone Star State counting dead trees to get a better picture of the mortality rate from the 2011 drought.
Texas Forest Service personnel will survey 700 plots of land, each specifically targeted by agency analysts who studied satellite images of tree canopy across the state.
Crews will note the number of dead trees in a 75-foot radius on each plot. They also will collect information — when available — about the prevalence of bark beetles and hypoxylon canker, two potentially-deadly health concerns for drought-stressed trees.
“We didn’t just lose trees. We lost all the social, environmental and economic benefits they provide,” said Chris Brown, a program coordinator and forester with Texas Forest Service. “Knowing the mortality rate allows us to help communities plan for reforestation.”
Last December, Texas Forest Service announced that an estimated 100 to 500 million trees had been killed by the 2011 drought. The preliminary estimate was derived by agency foresters, who canvassed local forestry professionals, gathering information from them on the drought and its effect on trees in their respective communities.
The current work makes up phase two of the agency’s drought assessment.
Crews started their assessment in East Texas earlier this month. They’re expected to conduct field surveys into July as they work their way across the state. A final report could be available as early as August.
Landowners should be aware that they may be contacted by crews seeking permission to survey plots on private property. They will be contacted using the information listed in appraisal district records — likely by phone or mail.
A third phase of the assessment includes a more scientific, longer-term study that will be completed as the agency collects data through its Forest Inventory & Analysis program. Considered a census for trees, the federally-funded program allows the agency to keep a close watch on trees — and how they’re growing and changing — across the state.