Study: About 13 per­cent of state’s for­est trees have died since 2015

Pawtucket Times - - REGION / OBITUARIES -

PROV­I­DENCE (AP) — A com­bi­na­tion of heat, drought and in­sect in­fes­ta­tions have killed about 13 per­cent of trees in Rhode Is­land’s forests since 2015, ac­cord­ing to state en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cials.

The 45,000 to 50,000 acres of dead trees are con­cen­trated across the western half of the state, from Hop­kin­ton to Bur­ril­lville, with pock­ets on Pru­dence Is­land and the Sakon­net Penin­sula, Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment ex­perts told the Prov­i­dence Jour­nal Thurs­day. Rhode Is­land has about 369,000 acres of for­est.

The assess­ment by Paul Ri­card, for­est health pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor for the agency, was based on an aerial sur­vey he con­ducted in Septem­ber.

The ma­jor­ity of the dead trees are species of oak, the leaves of which are the pre­ferred source of food for gypsy moth cater­pil­lars, an in­va­sive in­sect that ex­ploded in num­bers three years ago.

South­ern pine bee­tles have moved north as win­ters have be­come milder, reach­ing Rhode Is­land in 2015. The emer­ald ash borer, an in­va­sive species from China, was con­firmed in Rhode Is­land for the first time this year.

Droughts have starved trees of sus­te­nance, mak­ing them more sus­cep­ti­ble to cater­pil­lars and de­priv­ing them of the fuel nec­es­sary to bud new leaves.

The dead trees rep­re­sent an eco­nomic loss to tim­ber har­vesters. Wood from dead trees, in­stead of be­ing cut down for lum­ber, it is be­ing sold as fire­wood at a frac­tion of the price.

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