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Colorado: Research suggests last summer’s heat wave is likely to result in another wave of aspen mortality

‘It’s never just drought, and boom, you’re dead’

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Is there more trouble ahead for Colorado’s aspen forests?

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s aspens could take another big hit in the next few years as the after-effects of last summer’s heat wave take a toll on the state’s iconic trees. Recent research suggests that aspens damaged in previous droughts are more likely to die during subsequent heat waves.

Overall, Colorado reported one of its hottest summers on record in 2012, and even though researchers didn’t see excessive aspen mortality last year, it may take a few years before the full impact becomes apparent.

“We had a two or three year lag after the last drought,” said Forest Service aspen expert Jim Worrall, who helped analyze and describe the massive wave of aspen mortality that started in about 2005 and lasted for several years, leaving aspen ecologists puzzled and worried. Continue reading

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