Pacific Northwest Fir Trees Hit With Massive “Firmangeddon” Mortality Event

The Oregonian is reporting that, according to as-yet unpublished research conducted by the US Forest Service (USFS), fir trees in Oregon and Washington died in record-breaking numbers in 2022. The drought-driven “mortality event,” labeled “Firmageddon” by researchers, is the largest die-off ever recorded for fir trees in the two states.

In total, the USFS observed fir die-offs occurring on more than 1.23 million acres (over 1,900 square miles) in Oregon and Washington. Heavily affected areas include the Fremont-Winema, Ochoco, and Malheur national forests. The Fremont-Winema National Forest in Southern Oregon was the hardest hit, according to survey data. In Oregon alone, the Forest Service observed dead firs on roughly 1.1 million acres (over 1,700 square miles) of forest. This year’s numbers for Oregon are nearly double the acres recorded during previous die-offs.

Daniel DePinte, who led the survey for the USFS Pacific Northwest Region Aerial Survey, told a gathering of colleagues in October that “it is unprecedented, the number of acres we have seen impacted. It’s definitely significant and it’s disturbing.”

In an interview with Columbia Insight, DePinte says although his team’s results are preliminary and further analysis is needed, the 2022 Firmageddon appears to be due to a combination of drought coupled with insects and fungal diseases working together to weaken and kill trees. “When a drought event comes around it basically weakens the entire forest to a point where the insects and the diseases start to work in tandem, and this pushes a tree over the edge and it succumbs to mortality,” DePinte said.

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