In drought-stricken California, 36 million trees have died since May, the Los Angeles Times reports. They're part of 62 million trees that have died in the state since 2016 and 102 million trees that have died over the past six years. "It's not beyond the pale to suggest that this is a pretty unprecedented event in at least recent history," a US Geological Survey ecologist tells the San Francisco Chronicle. The dead trees—some of which normally live hundreds of years—represent more than a third of the 21 million acres of trees in California's national forests. The state's five-year drought is killing some directly and weakening others for pests. At the same time, rising temperatures in California are increasing the amount of water trees need.
"This staggering and growing number of tree deaths should be concerning for everyone," a California climate and conservation manager tells the Times. One dangerous side effect: Having millions of dead, dry trees lying around increases the dangers posed by wildfires. Fires can start easier, spread more quickly, and burn hotter, damaging the soil. The US Forest Service spent more than half its 2016 budget fighting wildfires—money that could have gone to restoring dying forests. California officials are trying to figure out what to do with the dead trees—ideas include using them for lumber or burning them for electricity, the Christian Science Monitor reports. (One California couple uses a mind-boggling amount of water.)