Pine beetles continue marching east

If this press release is anything to go by, hard times in Canadian forestry are about to get harder. The Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) has been chomping its way through the lodgepole pines of British Columbia since a shortage of cold winters has allowed it to spread unchecked. The beetles spread the deadly "blue-stain" fungus, Ophiostoma minus, through the wood of the tree as they bore (in much the same manner as is Dutch-Elm Disease; in that case caused by Ophiostoma ulmi).

Controlled burns of forests in Alberta were planned, to halt the expansion of the epidemic out of BC, but wet weather has put that on hold. It’ll be spring before new attempts can be made. Another warm winter could see the spread of the beetles further afield.

The Canadian Forest Service runs an excellent "Mountain Pine Beetle Program" site here, the introduction to which predicts "At the current rate of spread, 50 per cent of the mature pine will be dead by 2008 and 80 per cent by 2013." Clearly, these are nervous times for the forestry industry.

There’s loads on the CAB Abstracts database concerning the MPB, Canadian forestry and the techniques of prescribed burning. If you’re not a database subscriber, then you’re in luck, as a good selection of abstracts on these subjects are free for you to view via Google Scholar, here – MPB and lodgepole pines in Canada.

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