Iconic N. America pines may vanish: study

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, February 28, 2011 16:52 EDT
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WASHINGTON – The narrow, towering lodgepole pine trees that populate North America’s western forests may disappear in the coming decades due to climate change and attacking beetles, a study said Monday.

The trees are tough and adaptable, particularly in areas prone to wildfires and bitter cold, but warmer, dryer seasons and pests are combining to kill off the trees in growing numbers, US and Canadian researchers say.

By the year 2020 the trees in the Pacific Northwest will have declined about eight percent, and then “continued climatic changes are expected to accelerate the species’ demise,” said the study in the journal Climatic Change.

“By 2080, it is projected to be almost absent from Oregon, Washington and Idaho,” it said.

The tall, straight trees were once harvested for making American Indians’ teepee tents and have been used widely in building poles and fences, as well as providing habitat for large animals in the wild.

“For skeptics of climate change, it’s worth noting that the increase in vulnerability of lodgepole pine we’ve seen in recent decades is made from comparisons with real climatic data, and is backed up with satellite-observations showing major changes on the ground,” said Richard Waring of Oregon State University.

“This is already happening in some places,” Waring said. “Bark beetles in lodgepole pine used to be more selective, leaving the younger and healthier trees alone.

“Now their populations and pheromone levels are getting so high they can more easily reach epidemic levels and kill almost all adult trees,” he said.

However, the lodgepole pine is expected to survive in the upper elevations of Yellowstone National Park and a handful of other locations, the study said.

The research was funded by NASA and the Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council of Canada.

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  • Anonymous

    The eventual demise of the N American pine tree has nothing to do with climate change. Its demise will come from the pine beetles of China who began infesting our forests here in British Columbia over a decade ago. This non-native species could have been stopped but our government did nothing. Most likely on the opinion of the forestry lobby in seeing future profits from logging dead fallen trees. The species now cover most of our province and is most likely in Washington State and Alberta.

  • http://gaia-health.com/ Heidi Stevenson

    I was absolutely sickened on first seeing miles and miles and miles of dying pine forests when moving to Oregon. Nothing but the wholesale razing of forests has ever gripped my belly like that sight.

    There is one more reason that they’re disappearing. It’s part of the same system that has created global warming, agribusiness. Forests have been treated as commodities, not the natural wonders they are. As a result, we’ve seen the mass razing of forests, and their replacement with monoculture. These forests of pure pine are not natural. They have helped incubate the beetles and spread them, since there’s no distance between pines.

    To witness the loss of some of the last great forests of the world is beyond grief, and to know that it’s caused by us is beyond guilt. I despair, simply despair.

  • Anonymous

    The few on my property are all suffering from Bark Beetle, Pitch Chancre, and spider mites. I’m fighting an expensive losing battle.

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    It has plenty to do with climate change.

    Mountain pine beetle and forest carbon feedback to climate change

    “The species now cover most of our province and is most likely in Washington State and Alberta.”

    As of 2008, there was also a large outbreak in Colorado. The largest problem in the eradication of the beetle is that homes in the area are close to the infected trees, so that a controlled burn could be problematic. In Wyoming and Colorado in 2006 there were 1 million acres (4,000 km2) of dead trees; in 2007 it was 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km2). Predictions for 2008 suggested that over 2 million acres (8,100 km2) of trees would be killed by the beetle
    It may be the largest forest insect blight ever seen in North America. Climate change has contributed to the size and severity of the outbreak, and the outbreak itself may, with similar infestations, have significant effects on the capability of northern forests to remove greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

  • http://gaia-health.com/ Heidi Stevenson

    Not really true. Yes, the pine beetle comes from elsewhere – but it couldn’t have gotten a foothold if it hadn’t been for two things: climate change, which allows it to survive winters that were once too cold for it, and treating forests as tree plantations. Monoculture means that there’s no space between like-species trees, so it became very easy for the beetles to spread. You’ll note that other species are fine – except cedars, which are now being killed by something else. (What, I don’t know.)

    Note that the article stated that trees at higher elevations may survive. They haven’t been strip-mined like those lower down and the winters may remain cold enough.

  • http://www.rawstory.com/ Doge of Yettis

    i think spider mites like pesticide at this point… :=/

  • Anonymous

    I’ve gotta run and get back to work, but yes, this is directly related to climate change/global warming.

    I know loads about this subject, I’m an arborist and own a tree service. A lot of my work is in big timber in the Sierra Nevada, bark beetles are money in the bank for me .I cut down loads of beetled trees every year, some quite large as well. Last fall at 9900 feet in Rock Creek, California I observed many Longhorn Bark beetles along with Pine Bark beetles while cutting down a huge swath of dead Lodgepole Pines. Last year was the first time I observed a longhorn beetle at that elevation in the Sierra Nevada. The Forest Service biologist in my area now knows how bad the situation is because the forest is dying. In ten years it will be very visible all over the Sierra Nevada. It is now, but not like it will be in ten years!

    Back to work for me, the chainsaws are waiting!! I will chime in later.

  • Anonymous

    Nope. The Pine Bark Beetle is native. What you’re talking about is the Asian Longhorn Bark Beetle, it did come from China to New York harbor.

    The increase in bark beetle activity has everything to do with global warming.

    Again, back to work for me, but there is a lot more to it. One of the reasons for more activity is the warmer low temps in Canada for the last 10-15 winters. The larvae do not die off in large enough numbers so there are more beetles to do damage.

  • Anonymous

    Bullshit. Talk to climatologists and foresters. Every single pine species in North America evolved with its own bark beetle. The problem is drought (take Washington State, for example, where snowpack water content, as in B.C. is about 40% what it was prior to 1980). Drier trees can’t produce sap to overwhelm and kill boring beetles. Warmer winters don’t kill as many beetles. Slower freeze cycles allow beetles to metabolize an ‘anti-freeze’ glycogen in their blood to resist cold. In the case of northern spruce beetles in Alaska – summers are so warm and long that the beetles now get two generations a summer instead of one, resulting in 90% die-off of trees in places like the Kenai. Indeed, you can see most beetle outbreaks on the Western, and Southern slopes of pine environments. That’s why pine bark beetles have now crossed the Canadian Rockies, where winters were previously too cold to allow them to survive, and threaten the immense Canadian boreal forests.

    While Chinese beetles might have a small effect, it’s almost entirely about climate change, and that – for all scientists and people who have actually studied the problem – is a giant “Duh.”

  • YeaSayer

    Having made about 100 round trips from Portland to the Bay Area, I’ve flown over many areas of old growth laid to waste by logging. The Department of the Interior subsidizes this by paying for the logging roads. Remember, the Appalachians were once heavily forested.

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    When it does begin to show in an affected area, it really shows. Mountain after mountain populated by nothing but dead pines.


  • Anonymous

    Yep, I’ve seen huge damage like that, just not in the Sierra Nevada yet.
    The Lake Tahoe Basin will look like that in the near future. a disaster waiting to happen.

  • Anonymous

    The Pine Bark Beetles are native, there are hundreds of different Pine Beetles. Cedars are dying off from drought.

  • http://gaia-health.com/ Heidi Stevenson

    You aren’t still flying over them, are you?

  • http://gaia-health.com/ Heidi Stevenson

    Cedars were dying off before drought began. I saw it happening eight years ago. Along the Oregon coast, nearly all cedars had turned brown.

    I’d understood the pine bark beetles of issue in the northwest to be imported. Whether they are or not, it’s not the issue. The issue is why they’ve become such a devastating problem.

  • Anonymous

    Actually the Pine Bark beetles there are not imported, they’re native.Dendroctonus ponderosae is the usual suspect. Mountain Pine Beetle.
    And some Cedars may be victims of the Japanese Cedar Longhorn Beetle, first detected in North America in 1927, Vancouver, BC. First detected in the USA in the 50′s in Washington state. These beetles like Juniper and Cypress, and some Cedars.
    Most of the research surrounding Cedar has to do with drought, but a few beetles have had an impact.

    Edit: Cedars and lack of water is an issue that has been studied in the Northwest for over a decade. What one my perceive as the beginning of a drought is really something that has been going on for quite a while.
    And regard the post from Commentista. Pine Bark Beetles are not only native, but have evolved for each specie. The reason they’re having such a huge impact is drought and warmer winters that allow for more larvae to survive.

  • Anonymous

    The clear cutting in the Pacific North West has been slowed down a bit in the past decade, now they leave a “tree strip” along the road or border so you can’t “see” the cuts. Oregon does a better job of selective cutting in most areas thus leaving some of the mature trees standing to help in recovery. In Washington state it’s either clear-cut or no cut, not a lot of in between. (We The People) actually pay for the timber companies to build roads (killing lots of wildlife and trees) so (We The People) can pay the timber companies to cut our trees (We The People) own (National Forests) to sell them to Japan and other countries, exporting jobs and resources. This is nothing new and will never end as long as Big Business owns this country and government……………..

  • http://www.amazon.com/Starvation-Ridge-Risa-Bear/dp/1304772683/ Risa Stephanie Bear

    Yes. I was a Timber Stand Examiner thirty years ago, working in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, and Idaho. The woods I am seeing now are already quite different from the ones in which I worked. Much more sunlight is reaching the ground, and all the plant communities are reaching for higher elevations, while those already there, having nowhere to go except north, are vanishing locally. Higher lows than in those days result in low die-off of beetles, who kill a wider range of trees, then the lightning fires result in denuded slopes and the problems — for forests, for water quality, lower carbon storage, even, for those in industry who like to say, as I once heard, that a forest is “just an inventory of logs standing on end” — well, there goes your inventory. And it all started (this time around, geologically speaking) at the smokestack and the tailpipe. Mr. Log Truck Driver’s, and yours, and mine.