2011-05-01

New study shows beetle-killed trees ignite faster

The red needles of a tree killed in a mountain pine beetle attack can ignite up to three times faster than the green needles of a healthy tree, new research into the pine beetle epidemic has found.

The findings by U.S. Forest Service ecologist Matt Jolly are being used by fellow ecologist Russ Parsons to develop a new model that will eventually aid firefighters who battle blazes in the tens of millions of acres from Canada to Colorado where forest canopies have turned from green to red from the beetle outbreak.

The new model incorporates a level of detail and physics that doesn't exist in current models, and it is much more advanced in predicting how a wildfire in a beetle-ravaged region will behave, Parsons said.