The Bandera Courier
Bandera Courier
Thursday December 14, 2017
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Losing trees

Feather Wilson

Texas may have lost more than 500 million trees due to the ongoing drought.

Many dead trees have been noted across the Texas Hill Country including the ubiquitous cedar (ashe juniper), post oaks, red oaks, and a few old live oaks.

All of these trees have relatively shallow root systems. The worst hit areas are across the Balcones Fault Zone where thin rocky soils lie above the heat absorbing Edwards limestone.

The summer heat baked the gray Edwards outcrop and what little moisture fell during the first nine months of 2011 zapped the tree population.

As you drive south from Tarpley toward Hondo on FM 462, the dead trees are notable on the Edwards outcrop. The broad 38,000 square mile Edwards Plateau is witness to many dead gray silhouettes.

Forest fires killed about 1.5 million trees this summer, which is a miniscule number compared to the 500 million killed by the lack of summer rainfall.

The Texas Forest Service recently made a survey of 63 million acres of forest land and announced that Central Texas was one of the hardest hit areas of the State. The survey ignored the oak wilt trees, although the drought may have accelerated that process.

This spring will be the best time to fully assess the Texas tree loss. Preliminary loss estimates are severe.
Some estimates are as high as 10 percent of the trees with trunk diameters of 5" or more that have been lost.

Many of the trees that grow adjacent to the dry streams are dead. The cypress appears to fare better than the cotton woods along riparian stream banks.

The deep rooted trees such as the mesquite, pecan and cedar elms seem to weather droughts better than shallow root systems. However, they are not completely immune to drought.

This is especially true in dense growth areas.

The severity of the 2011 drought was
emphasized by the high heat and wind compared to previous droughts.

The chain saws will be sadly buzzing across the Texas Hill Country this spring.