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LA's Trees Are Dying Off Faster Because of the Drought

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Getting Angelenos to cut back on outdoor watering during the serious statewide drought has been a huge part of the recent water conservation campaign in LA. There are mandatory restrictions on water use, and neighbors watch each other like hawks to make sure that everyone's on board. But with so much of the discussion focused on lawns and shrubs, it's easy to forget about trees. They've been hit hard by the drought, says the LA Times, in parks and on city streets. "[A]s many as 14,000 trees" might have died in LA's parks during the last drought year, says a city parks survey that ended in April. That's a big jump from the year before.

14,000 trees is about 4 percent of all LA's park trees. That might not sound like a lot, but during the previous year— also a parched one— only about 1 percent of park trees died. (A "normal" year would have even fewer tree deaths than that.) 14,000 trees dying is enough to impact animal habitats, rainwater capture, and the temperature. "The average park in L.A. is about five degrees cooler than the neighborhood that surrounds it," a principal forester with LA's Department of Recreation and Parks says, but if trees keep dying, that number could change.

And it's not just the trees in parks that are drying up. Along city streets, trees are shriveling, too, though it seems like no one city agency is keeping track of how many are dying. (The city's urban forestry division is in charge of trees on city streets but did not respond to the Times' request for comment.) Scientists anticipate that more trees will probably die off as the drought continues.

Advocates with the nonprofit environmental group TreePeople tell KPCC that a big part of the issue, at least with trees on private property, might be people cutting their trees' water supply off abruptly instead of weaning them off gradually. "It needs time to get use to not having that water," says a TreePeople rep.

Experts are mostly looking at the increase in tree deaths as a teachable moment, pointing out that trees that die can be replaced with more drought-tolerant ones, and that this is a good way for people to get more educated about the trees they plant in their yards, and what those trees need, says the Times. They note also that trees can be watered with graywater or captured rainwater (which we don't have a ton of) or with more efficient irrigation systems.
· Dying trees may force a new outlook on irrigation during drought [LAT]
· Urban trees dying in drought. What you need to know [SCPR]