The devastating spread of the mountain pine beetle

When the mountain pine beetle began blazing a path across forests in British Columbia and Alberta, nobody could have imagined the extent of the damage to come. But as the insect devastated pine forests and disrupted communities, forest industries, recreational use, watersheds, and plant and wildlife habitats, the problem became disturbingly clear. Now, as the beetle creeps into the boreal forests of the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan, with a real concern it may reach as far east as the Maritime provinces, researchers at the University of Alberta have responded to calls from government, industry, non-profit organizations and the general public to help conserve and protect an invaluable national resource at the heart of Canadian identity.


University of Alberta researcher studying pine beetle flight patterns

A University of Alberta biologist aims to get a step ahead of pine beetles with new research on the pesky insect’s flight patterns.

Maya Evenden, who has been studying mountain pine beetles for eight years, said the U of A is breaking into new territory by measuring flight capacity.

“When the beetle comes out of the tree as an adult, it has to fly to reproduce,” Evenden said.


Drought could reverse drop in bark beetle numbers

The amount of Nevada forest under assault from bark beetles and similar bugs dropped significantly last year, a promising trend experts said could be reversed in a big way should the current drought continue much longer.

All across the state, populations of tree-killing insects plummeted in 2013 from levels seen in 2012, a change revealed by aerial surveys, said Gene Phillips, forest health specialist for the Nevada Division of Forestry.

"These are some pretty dramatic decreases," Phillips said.


Climate mitigation plan needed

Are the forest fires ripping through British Columbia’s vast stands of beetle-killed forests on the parched Interior plateau a portent of the growing economic consequences of impending climate change?

There’s compelling evidence they are, and that we should be paying close attention.

First, there’s the trend to mild winters that permit the pine beetle, whose population is normally controlled by severe temperatures, to both grow explosively and broaden its range exponentially. In a scant decade, what was a minor economic pest has morphed into an environmental peril with a huge price. B.C.’s forests are a $10 billion segment of the economy which sustains 56,000 direct jobs and $2.4 billion in employee earnings.


B.C. scientists seek forest management strategies to slow climate change

A five-year project by B.C.’s four leading research universities will draw a roadmap for forest management to help the industry cope with climate change, and even slow its advance.

The ability of the province’s 55 million hectares of forest to capture atmospheric carbon has been seriously hampered by the extent of pine forests killed by the mountain pine beetle, an area that now tops 18 million hectares, according to the project’s lead scientist Werner Kurz.

The Forest Carbon Management Project, funded by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and led by the University of Victoria, will engage academics, government officials and scientists, First Nations and industry leaders with the goal of maximizing the potential of our forests to capture and store carbon, both in the living forest, soil-based carbon sinks and in long-lasting products of the forest industry such as furniture and buildings.