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Patches of red or grey coloured dead trees are all around western Canada.
Most likely, the mountain pine beetle - a tiny little insect- killed these trees.
It’s a shame to see that much damage done by a beetle. As the adult insect only measures 5 mm, how did it get this bad?
Unfortunately, this is not a nice sight during your travel in Canada.
The mountain pine beetle is an insect that is common in our forests.
In a balanced ecosystem epidemics do not occur.
Due to human causes, our forests ecosystems got out of balance and this beetle took advantage of it.
Once logged, the industry used to replant mono-cultures of lodgepole pines.
As the name suggests, the pine beetle prefers mature pine trees. Therefore, these beetles find themselves in heaven with mono-cultures of food and reproducing habitat.
Why we use lodgepole pine as lumber
- these pines have long straight trunks with branches only at the top of the tree, and
- lodgepole pines are highly adaptable and can grow in all sorts of environments, from bogs to dry sandy soils.
Last 20 years or so, more and more a variety of trees is replanted after logging. This helps to reduce beetle habitat for years to come.
Fire kills the beetles and their larvae. However, we always try to prevent or extinguish forest fires. Lately more and more controlled burns are scheduled. Wildfires will help reducing infestation.
Global warming is the biggest cause of the pine beetle epidemic. When temperatures get below -40 C for at least a week straight, the eggs, larvae and pupae will die. However, due to global warming these low temperatures are getting rarer and rarer....
It’s great to make a campfire during your vacation in Canada.
However, you have to realize that you can actually spread the pine beetle epidemic by moving infected firewood from place to place.
Travel Canada while using local wood for campfires. Most campgrounds sell local firewood for
$ 4 - $ 7 a bundle.
Help save our forests for future generations.
Wikipedia - mountain pine beetle
Jeff Mitton, University of Colorado