2018 tree count shows major increase in South Dakota

South Dakota tree-count shows a 7.1% increase in 2018 (KEVN)

RAPID CITY, SD (KEVN) - An estimated 601 million live trees stood tall in South Dakota forests in 2018, a 7.1% increase from five years earlier, according to the Department of Agriculture.

"That's primarily due to the ability of ponderosa pine to regenerate in the Black Hills," said Gregory Josten, state forester for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture

The ponderosa pine tree has always been the dominant species in South Dakota forests and one of the most prolific.

Josten said the overflow of trees can lend to just how tough the Black Hills National forest is fighting off disturbances like the 20-year-0long Mountain Pine Beetle infestation that kicked off in 1996.

"Although this increase in the number of trees reflects younger trees, eventually they will grow and reoccupy the forest area and make sure we have a forest in the future," Josten said.

On the other hand, ponderosa pine trees can generate too many trees.

"They compete with each other for light and water and nutrients and it slows down their growth and makes them real small and spindly and very high-density in the number of trees per acre," Josten added.

With the recent study showing that the net growth of trees actually lower than the mortality and removal rates, the future of the well-known greenery is

"Weather is a disturbance factor, fire, Mountain Pine Beetles, but we have a resilient forest," Josten added.

The Department of Agriculture said that it is committed to making sure disturbances like the Pine Beetle Epidemic and fires in the forest are prevented.

It also says it is committed to making sure that the forest product industry continues to thrive.