Nearly a week removed from summer, and a large portion of the U.S. is still recovering from a drought-stricken season. But it’s a much better scene in Texas now than it was at this point a year ago.
However, news of the devastating drought of 2011 is still making headlines. On Tuesday, the Texas A&M Forest Service said that an updated ground and aerial survey indicates about 301 million trees have died in rural Texas because of that drought. While the figure is devastating, it’s 200 million less than a preliminary estimate issued last December.
Dr. Derald Harp, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences at Texas A&M University-Commerce, has been among the state’s horticulturalists taking note.
“One of the things that came up that we saw quite a bit here was actually trees that got stressed and we had a secondary infection that set in. Actually, there’s a disease out there call hypoxylon canker that is actually causing death in especially a lot of the oaks and some of the hickories around here as well,” Harp said.
While the mortality rate of trees in Texas due to the drought was at its highest in Central Texas, at roughly 102 million, it wasn’t much better locally. In 2011, North Texas accounted for the fourth-highest number of tree deaths among the state’s 10 regions. Here's the full chart.
While the negatives are abundant, Dr. Harp says there are some benefits for an ecosystem following a drought.
“Some of these areas are going to open up. It’s going to allow more grassy growth underneath. It’s going to provide a little more forage for some species. It also is going to provide those dead trees, both still standing and on the ground, will provide new habitat sites for animals in the ground.”
The biggest thing we can learn from the 2011 drought, according to Harp, is judicious use of available water supplies.
Hear our complete interview with Dr. Harp above.