Trees are dying at an alarming rate

A natural disaster is happening in parts of our state and could have dangerous implications in future months.

A shocking number of trees are dead or dying in parts of Massachusetts.

"It is a very large number. We are very concerned about it," said Ken Gooch, Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Years of drought, and spring after spring of crippling caterpillar defoliation have left forests and yards and roadsides with bony remnants of shade.

Ken Gooch is the state's forest health program director. He showed us trees alive in June, but dead now.

"Trees get weakened by multiple years of defoliation. You are going to see some tree mortality. Not really at the level that we're seeing right now. It was not expected. We did not expect to see this many dead trees," said Gooch.

If there's a bright side, the Mass. die-off has been somewhat discrete with not all parts of the state affected.

Oak trees are taking the biggest hit. Many things are lost when trees die, including shade, oxygen production and beauty, but in the case of large oaks that have died this year, history has also been lost.

By one metric, an oak just 12 inches in diameter averages about 75 years old. Translation: they can't be replaced overnight.

Leo Simkins is a certified arborist in Holliston and has been taking lots of homeowner calls about dead trees. Over time, he says, they can become killer trees.

"A freshly dead tree might take a storm to take it down. Whereas, if it's been standing dead for a couple of years, it's just going to start falling apart on you," said Simkins.

Gypsy moths have prepared for an invasion next spring and could mean more trees dying next year.

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