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Stressed-out ponderosa pines

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The sudden appearance of drying needles, dead branches, or even dead Ponderosa Pine trees can alarm anyone, especially homeowners.  Damage occurs throughout New Mexico where Ponderosa Pine is found growing, but is most severe in the urban setting, on the fringe of forested areas, and on shallow, rocky, or droughty soil types.
That describes Los Alamos to a tee. Trees growing near roads or in areas of soil disturbance or abundant competing vegetation are most frequently affected. According to Danny Norlander, New Mexico State Forestry Forest Health Specialist, there has been an uptick in Ponderosa Pine tree mortality in southern area forests and in isolated pockets in Northern New Mexico over the last two years but the problem is not widespread.  
The majority of the Ponderosa Pines alongside our roadways here in the county are not actually dead but responding to water stress by first shedding their oldest needles and then reallocating internal water resources to new growth resulting in partial dieback of 1-2 year old needles.   
Water stress can also predispose trees to attack by biotic agents causing partial dieback of needles.


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