Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Massive die-off of Sierra Nevada trees; With drought comes beetles

Thousands of acres on public and private lands are home to dead and dying trees, and this makes forestry and fire officials concerned.  Western pine beetles thrive in drought, when the Ponderosa pines natural sap defenses are weakened, and only wet years will reduce populations.  All types of conifer trees are being affected by the drought, with some succumbing to drought and some from the bark beetles that are moving in.  Either way, large numbers of dead trees are a fire hazard and are being removed on public lands and private at a cost of upwards of hundreds of dollars per tree.  Those in the logging industry blame the Forest Service for not allowing thinning on public lands, but natural resources economist John T. Austin likens the current tree mortality to a hot patchy fire.  While the trees aren't being selectively thinned by the drought and the bark beetles, but it will leave behind the healthier trees and a greater diversity.

mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) on ponderosa pine near Antero Jct, South Park,CO by William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International, Bugwood.org
*Note: image is not from current drought

To view the article: Sierra Nevada pine tree die-off worsens as beetles thrive in drought
To view a map of the drought: U.S. Drought Monitor