Beetles will destroy 90% of American pine forests

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Beetles will destroy 90% of American pine forests

With the litany of man made disasters on our news every day come a natural disaster which may change the face of the forests in Western American pine forests.

Colorado's distinctive lodgepole pine trees are under attack from a beetle infestation described by scientists as a "perfect storm" which could destroy 90% of the western American state's pine forests.

The bark beetle outbreak was responsible for the death of 4.8m lodgepole pines in Colorado last year, up from 1m in 2005. The infestation has spread across 1,000 square miles of forest - nearly half the total in the state. Forty three per cent of the state's lodgepole pines have died as a result of the infestation. But it is not limited to Colorado: the beetles have munched their way through the western US and Canada, affecting 36,000 square miles of forest.

"I knew we would have an infestation," says Jan Burke, a silviculturist for Colorado's White River national forest, "but I never remotely imagined this. Nobody predicted this." She looks up at the mountains behind the ski resort of Vail, sweeping hillsides of pine pockmarked with the orange stain of dead trees and the delicate feathery grey of aspens. "I guess we're the lucky ones because in our lifetime we got to see these forests. Our children won't. For many that's a bitter pill to swallow."

The results of the infestation in Colorado appear catastrophic for the pine forests that are familiar to thousands of visitors each year, many of them Britons heading for ski resorts including Aspen, Breckenridge and Beaver Creek, as well as Vail.

If the image of Colorado in the holidaymaker's mind is of snowcapped peaks and pine-covered slopes, those notions will have to change. As the lodgepole pines die, the dominant tree species will be aspen, its grey bark and light foliage replacing the dark green of the pine.

For now, the hillsides look familiar, with snow covering the dramatic slopes west of the Rockies. But even a cursory inspection reveals the devastation caused by the beetle. Among the green of the pines, the orange patches indicate beetle infestation and dead trees, what Burke calls "microsites of mortality". Forestry officials calculate that for every orange-brown pine that can be seen by the naked eye, another five to 10 are infected.

Once the beetle gets to the tree, nothing can be done.

Scientists, environmentalists, ski resort managers and forestry officials agree that by the time the beetle has finished, it will have killed 80-90% of the mature lodgepoles in Colorado. Mature trees account for 90% of the lodgepoles. While beetle infestations are part of the natural order of the forest, the current infestation defies all expectations.

"We're two to three years from seeing virtually the death of mature lodgepole pines," says Burke. "To the casual observer it will look like all of them. It's wholesale mortality. It's difficult to watch these really beautiful stands die. It just makes you want to go home."

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By netchicken: posted on 21-3-2007

That stupid George is all his fault!!!!

The pine beetle burned through my neck of the woods a few years ago. Iritating darned things. There used to be about 40 pines in the neighborhood, we lost about 10. Once the beetle is detected you have to cut that tree down immediately and have it removed before the beetle can come out of it and find the next tree.
By Thomas_Crowne: posted on 22-3-2007

Bark beetles take Connecticut-size bite out of Alaska

A long run of warmer temperatures, Berg said. Though the Kenai Peninsula has experienced warm summers many times during the past century, the warmth “really shifted into overdrive” from 1987 to 1997. Without cool, wet summers to knock down bark beetle populations, millions of beetles flew from tree to tree each spring, boring into the bark of spruce trees and laying eggs. When the eggs hatched, larvae grubs girdled the trees from within by feeding on the sugary inner bark, known as phloem. The result was an area the size of Connecticut in which spruce trees died en masse, giving the forest ecosystem a makeover from which it won’t soon recover. Now, most of the beetles are gone, but not because things have cooled down.

'It's natures way of telling you' :f
By TUTUTKAMEN: posted on 22-3-2007

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