Bark beetles kill trees by laying eggs just under the bark, choking off the inner tree layer that conducts water and nutrients. Climate change is aiding the spread of the beetle, which is decimating old growth pines and spruce in Utah.
Brandon Loomis, public lands and environmental reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune says that the warming climate is causing many changes that are helping the beetle to thrive. Already weakened by drought conditions, warmer temperatures stress trees even further, making it easier for beetles to overcome their defenses. Longer summers cause the insects to mature faster, leading to an exponential growth in the number of beetles. Further, the beetles are moving into new areas that are not as frequently experiencing the low temperatures that kill off the beetles.
The bark beetle outbreak may forever change forests across the U.S. and Canada. Forests in the east and midwest face an uncertain future as the beetle continues to spread. In light of our changing climate, Loomis says, it will be interesting to see what new types of plants take the place of trees that have fallen prey to the bark beetle.
For the full story, listen to Jennifer Napier-Pearce’s interview with Brandon Loomis.
Summary by Julie Kiefer