Small Ponderosa Pines dying.

Asked August 2, 2017, 3:34 PM EDT

I live in the Sierra Nevada at the 4,000 foot elevation not far from Yosemite National Park. As you know we have lost millions of conifers due to drought and disease. Last winter we received around 75" of precipitation.

Our small Ponderosa pines (1" to 4" diameter) that survived the drought are starting to die in large numbers, they turn brown and die but I do not see any pitch tubes or any other outward signs of disease.

I am wondering what is killing them.

Mariposa County California trees and shrubs pine trees horticulture ponderosa pine

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The U.S. Forest Service estimates that since 2010, more than 102 million drought-stressed and beetle-ravaged trees have died across 7.7 million acres of California forest. More than half of those died last year alone.

Exacerbated by anti-wildfire policies that produced a crowded forest more vulnerable to drought, the massive dieback is unprecedented in the recorded history of the Sierra.

The beetle epidemic is transforming the 4,500-foot to 6,000-foot elevation band of the central and southern range for decades to come, if not permanently.

Yes I know this as I have been living with the beetle kill trees for years and know the signs of a beetle infestation. This appears to be a new issue that has appeared in the last few weeks after a near record setting wet winter that has ended the drought. These small trees appear to be dying from another cause.

Do you have any tips on how I can find out what is killing them?

You can take a sample to your local County Extension Office for analysis,