Pine beetles cause large problems in the western part of America. Beetles in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Washington have destroyed over 3.9 million acres of trees, and 4.7 million trees have been infected by pine beetles as well. Pine beetles damage the trees to the point to where they become more flammable, leading to the risk of large fires.
Pine beetles lay their eggs in and consume the inner bark of trees, which eventually causes the trees to die from a loss of circulation. There have been a record number of infestations recently, potentially caused by global warming, which has encouraged the beetles to travel farther north than usual. Indeed, they have expanded their diet to different varieties of pines, which poses a problem for the ecosystems they inhabit. Also, considering the trees help reduce carbon emissions, the fact that the beetles are killing pines reinforces the problem; global warming allows them to kill more trees, and the loss of trees contributes to global warming.
The state of Colorado reports that the pine beetle is the single biggest threat to the health of its forests, dating the beginning of the current outbreak back to 1996. In 2010, the beetle infested 878,000 acres of forest, down from 2009’s 1,046,000 acres. This is not good news however, as the decrease is likely due to a rapidly decreasing number of healthy trees that are attractive to the parasitic beetle.
The first link below is a PDF of Colorado’s 2010 report on the health of its forests.
While we can’t say the pine beetle outbreak completely caused by global warming, it’s extremely likely that it plays a role. Unfortunately, global warming could lead to much higher numbers of all sorts of insects all over the world. Warmer temperatures allow insects to metabolize faster and thus produce many more offspring. And while ordinarily some insects are killed by intense cold in winter, global warming makes these low temperatures increasingly rare. If insect populations do indeed increase, it will be bad news for agriculture and human health.
Pine beetle outbreaks are a natural process, similar to wildfires or floods. However, as sarahtonin says, there is some thought that pine beetle outbreaks are worsening due to climate change.
Much discussion occurs about pine beetles increasing wildfire danger. As the article below points out, it is really fuel, terrain and weather conditions that impact wildfire danger. When pine beetles kill trees there are dead needles on the trees for 1-2 years. Assuming weather and terrain conditions are supportive, the threat of wildfire increases. After this short period, needles fall on the ground and dead standing trees are left – a forest that is difficult to burn (picture trying to start a campfire with no kindling) so fire danger goes way down. In 30-50 years the dead trees fall over and begin increasing the fuel loading on the ground. New trees and shrubs grow among the dead and down trees – fire danger is up again.
I live in Canada’s north central plains Alberta……pine beatles are moving our way.& we still have -40 winter days..I strongly believe they are a natural devolpement that affects humans financially more than anything else. Hence this is a good way to get funding to create employment which gives the perceeption that our fearless leaders are saving our bacon so to speak,when in reallaity one or more of there buddies is lineing there pockets with your tax money..they can no more stop pinebeetles than they can stop global climate change
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