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Drought causing juniper deaths in central, northern Arizona

April 22, 2021 GMT

WILLIAMS, Ariz. (AP) — Forest Service officials report significant die-off of juniper trees due to drought conditions affecting the evergreens across large areas of in central and northern Arizona.

Between 50,000 acres (202 square kilometers) and 100,000 acres (407 square kilometers) of junipers have been affected in areas of the Prescott and Kaibab national forests between Paulden and Ash Fork and north of Williams, officials said Tuesday.

Drought apparently is the cause, officials with the agency’s Forest Health Protection office in Flagstaff.

“While there have been some scattered observations of insects on dead trees, Forest Health Protection believes that the initial cause of death is directly tied to water stress. Trees impacted by drought show a change in color of their needle-like scales, which typically starts at the branch tips and spreads down the tree, fading from green to a bright yellow.”

Mortality rates vary, with most areas seeing die-offs of 5-30% with some pockets of dead junipers ranging from up to 15 acres (6 hectares), officials said.

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Small patches of junipers and individual trees are dying in higher elevations surround Prescott, they said.