It's now being called "the worst environmental disaster in the United States since the Exxon Valdez accident." That would be Hurricane Katrina with a little Hurricane Rita thrown in, but we're not talking destroyed housing and ruined cities.
This morning's WashPost reports that "satellite imaging has revealed that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita produced the largest single forestry disaster on record in America -- an essentially unreported ecological catastrophe that killed or severely damaged some 320 million trees in Mississippi and Louisiana."
It's not just the lost board-feet. Here's the best (worst) part: "The die-off ... was so massive that researchers say it will add significantly to the greenhouse gas buildup -- ultimately putting as much carbon from dying vegetation into the air as the rest of the American forest takes out in a year of photosynthesis."
Another kicker: the death of millions of native American tree species is allowing the opportunistic advancement of alien species, like Chinese Tallow tree, "an ornamental plant imported for landscaping more than a century ago .... [which] produces a milky, toxic sap that keeps insects away" (not a good thing, incidentally).