Sunday, November 23, 2008

Not seeing the forest for the trees

Part of what global warming does: creates droughts which weakens trees which then makes entire forests susceptible to the mountain pine beetle:
HELENA, Mont. — On the side of a mountain on the outskirts of Montana’s capital city, loggers are racing against a beetle grub the size of a grain of rice.

From New Mexico to British Columbia, the region’s signature pine forests are succumbing to a huge infestation of mountain pine beetles that are turning a blanket of green forest into a blanket of rust red. Montana has lost a million acres of trees to the beetles, and in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming the situation is worse.

“We’re seeing exponential growth of the infestation,” said Clint Kyhl, director of a Forest Service incident management team in Laramie, Wyo., that was set up to deal with the threat of fire from dead forests. Increased construction of homes in forest areas over the last 20 years makes the problem worse.
We're already losing a lot of very old oaks in California to bugs and disease. It's going to get kinda smoky around here unless we do something quick....


Anonymous said...

This is the 3rd time in roughly 100 years that the US West has seen a pine beetle infestation. So, your title is correct, but not exactly as you intend (i.e. we cannot blame climate change alone). We need to see the forest which is an infestation every 20-60 years. The real "cause" of the problem is an old forest due to suppression of forest fires (hence the reference to the construction of homes = suppress fires). Fires which are an integral part of nature clear the old trees and reduce the habitat for the pine beetle. The pine beetle doesn't normally affect younger trees which is the preventative measures include cutting down mature trees and leaving the younger ones. Don't worry, the world is not coming to end (unless you're a Ponderosa Pine). Meanwhile, the spruce couldn't be happier! This all creates a disturbing landscape for those who think nature is static.

ellroon said...

Thank you for your comment, Anon. I wondered why the housing would affect beetle activity. I hold no ill will against the spruce but the Ponderosa Pine will be missed.

I know nature is not static, but I had no idea I'd get to see it change dramatically within my lifetime.