An estimated 12 million trees across California’s forestlands have died over the past year because of extreme drought conditions, according to an aerial survey conducted April 8-17 by the U.S. Forest Service. In San Diego County, 82,528 trees, mostly Jeffrey pines across Mt. Laguna, have succumbed to a lack of rainfall, with many more struggling to survive, said Jeffrey Moore, interim aerial survey program manager for the U.S. Forest Service. There is “very heavy mortality, a lot of discoloration in the pine trees that probably will expire sometime during this growing season, as well as oak trees that are suffering,” Moore said.

Moore was part of a team that surveyed the trees visually, using a digital mapping system while flying in a fixed-wing aircraft 1,000 feet above ground. A tree’s survival often depends on its proximity to other trees, he said“A lot of trees are competing for whatever available moisture there is in a drought situation,” Moore said. “When you have too many trees in an area, it makes it hard on all of the trees.” MORE