Mountain pine beetles threaten endangered whitebark pines

Mountain pine beetles have hammered more than B.C.’s lodgepole pine forests — they’ve taken endangered whitebark pine trees, robbing Interior grizzly bears and other species of an important food supply.

Slow-growing whitebark pine trees are rarer than lodgepole pine, grow at higher elevations, and produce cones with large seeds that form a food source for Clark’s nutcracker (which disperses them across the landscape), red squirrels, chipmunks, and pre-denning black bears and grizzlies. The latter species are of special concern in Canada.

Native people have also long eaten the seeds raw or roasted.


Beetle kill's effect on water different than logging, flooding

The news on pine beetle outbreaks is not necessarily all bad, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Colorado.

Professor William Lewis, interim director of CU's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, is an author of a new study that reports that small trees and other vegetation near waterways that survive pine beetle infestation increase their uptake of nitrate, a compound associated with forest disturbances such as logging and severe storms.

Logging activity or storms can drive stream nitrate concentrations up by as much as 400 percent for multiple years, but the study participants did not discover similar levels of nitrate concentration in the wake of widespread pine beetle infestations.


Pine Beetle Outbreak Buffers Watersheds from Nitrate Pollution

A research team involving several scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder has found an unexpected silver lining in the devastating pine beetle outbreaks ravaging the West: Such events do not harm water quality in adjacent streams as scientists had previously believed.

According to CU-Boulder team member Professor William Lewis, the new study shows that smaller trees and other vegetation that survive pine beetle invasions along waterways increase their uptake of nitrate, a common disturbance-related pollutant. While logging or damaging storms can drive stream nitrate concentrations up by 400 percent for multiple years, the team found no significant increase in the nitrate concentrations following extensive pine beetle tree mortality in a number of Colorado study areas.

"We found that the beetles do not disturb watersheds in the same way as logging and severe storms," said Lewis, interim director of CU's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. "They leave behind smaller trees and other understory vegetation, which compensate for the loss of larger pine trees by taking up additional nitrate from the system. Beetle-kill conditions are a good benchmark for the protection of sub-canopy vegetation to preserve water quality during forest management activities."


Pine beetle infesting new B.C. tree species

The mountain pine beetle is on the move to higher elevations and threatening new species of trees and entire sensitive forest ecosystems, according to a new study.

The resilient beetle has wreaked havoc mainly on lodge pole pine in B.C., ruining 18 million hectares of forest — the equivalent of about five Vancouver Islands.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison say the bug is now attacking whitebark pine forests in the northern Rockies in the western U.S. and B.C.


Mountain Pine Beetle Moving to Higher Elevations on Mountains

In a report published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it was revealed that climate changes are causing the mountain pine beetles to move towards higher altitudes of the mountain.

The change is posing a threat to Whitebark pine, which is found on the Rocky Mountains, coast range of B. C. and the northern US. A report earlier said that beetle epidemic killed about 710 million cubic meters of the pine timber which was of great commercial use.

A similar threat is now anticipated for Whitebark pine. The earlier outbreak affected about 53% of all the pine in the province. Since then, rate of damage got slowed down but it is again expected to rise to 58% by 2017.