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Scientists still surveying scope of tree damage following heat wave

Scientists are still trying to figure out the extent of the damage to western Oregon trees after a historic heat wave scorched leaves and needles across the state.

Posted: Jul 22, 2021 10:58 AM
Updated: Jul 22, 2021 11:10 AM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Scientists are still trying to figure out the extent of the damage to western Oregon trees after a historic heat wave scorched leaves and needles across the state.

Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Forestry are trying to map the damage, which they believe happened mostly in the Willamette Valley and coastal range west of the Cascades.

Lauren Grand, OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Lane County, said the sun scorched some trees and damaged tissue during the heatwave, causing them to die. Other effects are less visible and happening inside the trees which are struggling to get water, Grand said.

“You're probably going to see this if you're going hiking in the coast range or in the Cascade Mountains on the western side. If you notice something and you want to help report the damage that's going on, reach out to your local extension office and let us know,” Grand said.

There’s also the ongoing heat and drought across the state making matters worse.

“Trees can also die just outright from drought and high-heat weather. We’re just going to see a lot more… tree mortality on the landscape,” Grand said.

Even trees that are typically more tolerant of droughts, like Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Hemlock trees are starting to see issues from the conditions. Trees that manage to survive the heat and drought can in turn become more vulnerable to other ailments.

“When trees are more stressed out, they become more susceptible…to insects and disease that can then sometimes become more successful and kill the trees," Grand said.

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