Nearly 1 billion California trees have suffered severe canopy water loss in just a few years
The average daily water usage per person in Palm Springs is 201 gallons, more than double California average. Communities where residential customers use more than 165 gallons of water per person per day would have to cut back by 35 percent.
The aerial scans uncovered an area of 41,000 square miles, or 10.6 million hectares, of affected forest. These trees were found to have lost a measurable amount of canopy water through the observatory’s mounted spectroscopy tools.
Of these 888 million trees identified 58 million have reached dangerously low water loss markers, threatening the health of the entire forest. Even though El Niño effects may provide some relief soon, the study’s authors worry that irreparable damage may have already been done.
Greg Asner, the man behind the Carnegie Airborne Observatory team, states, “Continued airborne and satellite monitoring will enable actions on the ground to mitigate a cascade of negative impacts from forest losses due to drought, as well as aid in monitoring forest recovery if and when the drought subsides.”
The results from the expedition have been shared with both state and federal entities and have led to engagement with the California EPA and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Asner’s research was also influential in the governor’s proclamation of a state of emergency for tree loss. This kind of data seems to be what it takes to get the attention of officials who can implement real change.