2013-03-27

Scientists decode pine beetle genome

Gnawing pests that are devastating Canada’s forests and agriculture may not have an appetite for destruction for long, because of a recent scientific breakthrough.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre have decoded the genome of the mountain pine beetle, which will allow for a first look into how the beetles can cause so much devastation, and why.

Because mountain pine beetles live under a tree’s bark, the bugs can’t be sprayed, and keeping the insect’s hunger at bay is difficult.

Mountain pine beetle's genome decoded

The days of the mountain pine beetle gnawing, unchecked, through the forests of B.C. and north-central Alberta could be numbered, thanks to a microscopic breakthrough.

Scientists at the University of British Columbia and the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre have decoded the genome of the voracious pest, permitting the first crystal clear look at how the little beetle wreaks such tremendous havoc.

“We know a lot about what the beetles do,” says Christopher Keeling, a research associate at the Michael Smith Laboratories.

2013-03-26

Timber Prices to Surge Following Beetle Epidemic: Report

An epidemic of mountain pine beetles is one of three factors set to fuel a long term surge in Canada and US timber prices, a new report predicts.

A supply shock associated with the epidemic of mountain pine beetles is one of three factors which will drive a surge in timber prices throughout Canada and the United States in 2013 and beyond, a new report predicts.

In its latest edition of Timber Trends, The Campbell Group LLC described 2013 as the “beginning of a long term bullish trend for the timber industry.”

Mountain pine beetle genome decoded

The genome of the mountain pine beetle – the insect that has devastated B.C.’s lodgepole pine forests – has been decoded by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre.

This is a first for the mountain pine beetle and only the second beetle genome ever sequenced. The first was the red flour beetle, a pest of stored grains. The genome is described in a study published Tuesday in the journal Genome Biology.

“We know a lot about what the beetles do,” says Christopher Keeling, a research associate in Prof. Joerg Bohlmann’s lab at the Michael Smith Laboratories. “But without the genome, we don’t know exactly how they do it.”

2013-03-23

One-fifth of B.C.'s forests at risk for wildfires due to the pine beetle infestation

According to B.C. forestry experts, the future of the province's forest industry could be in jeopardy.

They say one fifth of B.C.'s working forests are at risk for major wildfires never seen before in this province because of the millions of hectares of pine beetle killed wood.

All the dead timber has built up on forest floors, and is creating a dangerous level of fire fuel.

2013-03-18

Provincial crews pushing back on pine beetles

Provincial crews battling the mountain pine beetle will know this spring whether years of work to prevent the pest from spreading through Alberta’s southwest foothills has worked.

Duncan MacDonnell, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources Development spokesperson, said aggressive work to track the number of pine beetles in the province’s southwest corner and to destroy infested trees has helped control the bug’s population.

The bug moved into the Kananaskis and Crowsnest Pass areas more than a decade ago and the spread threatened the pine tree population in the foothills.

2013-03-08

The Pine Beetle and the Carbon Tariff: Two Calls to Climate Action

Recently I had the pleasure of traveling from community to community in the Okanagan as a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party. Like everyone who visits the Okanagan, the endless swaths of dead trees left me with a sense of deep urgency to act on climate change.

Before I got into politics I worked in the reforestation industry for 35 years and I saw much of British Columbia's vibrant forests. During that time it was unimaginable that BC's forests could include 20 million hectares of dead standing pine.

The super-population of the Mountain Pine Beetle which killed the pine is the result of nearly two decades of warm winters, an early warning sign of catastrophic climate change. The Greenhouse Gases from their decay is a "positive feedback effect" that will only make things worse. But it's not just BC -- we are all seeing extreme weather consequences from only a 0.7 degree Celsius warming.