Hear the sound of chewing out in our vast forests of lodgepole pine, spruce and fir, the chewing that’s already destroyed half the commercial timber in important regions like British Columbia? That’s the sound of climate change, says biologist Reese Halter. Global warming in the form of a bark beetle.
Halter’s short but disturbing new book, “The Insatiable Bark Beetle,” addresses one of the biggest and most visible issues facing global forests, and particularly the relatively large forests left in the U.S. and Canada. As winters grow warmer and summers drier, the West’s evergreen forests are being eaten alive. And the infestation is not showing any signs of slowing.
The most disturbing part? Halter puts the blame squarely on climate change, of which the infestations are not only a symptom but a cause – a feedback loop. “The beetles have taken a crucial terrestrial system that absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) – what’s known in biological parlance as a ‘carbon sink’ – and turned it into a ‘carbon source,’” Halter writes. “Over the next decade, the beetle-killed BC forests will emit 250 million metric tons of CO2 – the equivalent of five years of car and light truck emissions in Canada.”