Pining away about bugs and global warming

Cause and effect, or correlation not causation?

Press release Via Eurekalert:

Climate change causing demise of lodgepole pine in western North America

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Lodgepole pine, a hardy tree species that can thrive in cold temperatures and plays a key role in many western ecosystems, is already shrinking in range as a result of climate change – and may almost disappear from most of the Pacific Northwest by 2080, a new study concludes.

Including Canada, where it is actually projected to increase in some places, lodgepole pine is expected to be able to survive in only 17 percent of its current range in the western parts of North America.

The research, just published in the journal Climatic Change, was done by scientists from the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and the Department of Forest Resource Management at the University of British Columbia. It was based on an analysis of 12,600 sites across a broad geographic range.

Lodgepole pine ecosystems occupy large areas following major fires where extreme cold temperatures, poor soils and heavy, branch-breaking snows make it difficult for other tree species to compete. This includes large parts of higher elevation sites in Oregon, Washington, the Rocky Mountains and western Canada. Yellowstone National Park is dominated by this tree species.

However, warming temperatures, less winter precipitation, earlier loss of snowpack and more summer drought already appear to be affecting the range of lodgepole pine, at the same time increasing the infestations of bark beetles that attack this tree species.

The researchers concluded that some of these forces have been at work since at least 1980, and by around 2020 will have decreased the Pacific Northwest range of lodgepole pine by 8 percent. After that, continued climatic changes are expected to accelerate the species’ demise. By 2080, it is projected to be almost absent from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, some of the areas facing the most dramatic changes.

“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, an OSU distinguished professor emeritus of forest science.

“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. “Less frost, combined with less snow favors heavier levels of bark beetle infestation. We’re already seeing more insect attack, and we project that it will get worse.”

Some species are adapted to lower elevations, experts say, but lodgepole pine is predominately a sub-alpine tree species. Its new foliage can handle frost down to temperatures below freezing, it easily sheds snow that might break the branches of tree species more common at lower elevations, and it can survive in marginal soils.

But it makes these adaptations by growing more slowly, and as the subalpine environment becomes less harsh, lodgepole pine may increasingly be displaced by other species such as Douglas-fir, grand fir and ponderosa pine, which are also more drought-tolerant.

As lodgepole pine continues to decline, one of the few places on the map where it’s still projected to survive by 2080 is Yellowstone National Park – a harsh, high-elevation location – and a few other sub-alpine locations.

The species historically has played important ecological and cultural roles. It provided long, straight and lightweight poles often sought for tepees by Native American tribes, was later harvested commercially for poles and fence materials, and offers cover and habitat for big game animals.

###

Funding for this research was provided by NASA and the Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council of Canada. A co-author of the study was Nicholas Coops with the University of British Columbia.

 

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Paul in Sweden

“Funding for this research was provided by NASA and the Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council of Canada”
When is NASA going to focus on Space again?

etudiant

One might speculate that the period since 1980 was also the warm period of the PDO.
It will be interesting to see how well these trees do over the cold phase, which has just started.

nmsnoman

When I asked the forest ranger why they have re-adopted a natural fire prevention campaign in yellowstone despite the science showing that lodge pole pines are well served and invariably bolstered by forest fire, the response was a simple shoulder shrug. Even when the science is clear and the benefits are obvious, the green movement does not act in the interest of the environment. they act only to advance their own agenda, which has nothing to do with conservation and everything to do with appearances and politics.

Steve R

I wonder if the lodgepole pine will expand it’s range northward? Crowding out the poor tundra all the way to the shores of the arctic?

Steve R

I wonder if the lodgepole pine will expand it’s range northward? Crowding out the tundra all the way to the shores of the Arctic?

John F. Hultquist

This winter ought to take care of all their problems. It is both cold and snowy. They’ll need more money.
Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State has been closed most of the day because of heavy snow. Bummer.
By the way – what warming are they talking about?

rob m

I have a hunch that their prediction will be wrong.

mike g

One proud NASA is now doing forestry? And, doing it badly, it would appear.

mike g

I guess they plan to leave spaceflight to China and concentrate on forestry?

Harvey Harrison

Wrong. Around Slocan BC all the pine died in 1980, we logged what we could and burned the rest. Guess what? It all grew back, the pine beetles came back, so we are logging it again.
Pine has been here since coal was formed and will be here long after we are gone. It grows to useable size in 25 years; and then burns. Lodgepole is a fire tree and beats back the competition by burning them. Logepole pine cones need fire to go off like popcorn and scatter seeds everywhere.
True, the fire hazard is extreme, but they are making the world safe for pine trees; not for us.

Alberta Slim

The beetle has increased because of warmer winters.
The warmists, naturally, are extrapolating the trnd and saying, that is going to get worse.
Cold weather is what keeps the pine beetle populations down, as I understand it.
Therefore since we are now entering a cooling trend with lots of snow and sub-zero weather, things will NOT be “worse than we thought”.
IMHO.

Cris

1980? Other than a minor event in SW Washington, that’s also about the time the PDO entered the warm regime.

Stephen Rasey

Bark Beetles are killing the pines.
Now Global Warming (sorry, I cannot call it Climate Change without more specifics about WHAT is changing…) might be making the trees more susceptible to the beetle.
Bit it might also be that we are witnessing the demise of a 70-100 year old monocultured forest that was replanted at the end of the 19th Century after logging for mines and railroads denuded the original forests. The healthy life span of a lodgepole is 80 years.
So is it Pine Beetle by Global Warming? Or by bad management by U.S. Dept. of National Forests?

Stephen Rasey

Let us also not overlook the possibility of color enhancement in the press release.
Here are photos I took Aug 2009 months ago in Colorado.
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/25321843 – East of Silverthorn
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/25305587 – East Portal of Eisenhower Tunnel.

crosspatch

It is amazing that we see these stories yet according to NCDC, CONUS temperatures have been declining rapidly since 1998.

Sam Hall

The assumption they are making is that warming will continue. We sure haven’t had much of it the last ten years.

Craig Moore

It’s not a bug, but a feature. Maybe these beetles will learn to chirp Yellow submarine.
Montana is experiencing one hell of a brutal winter. New record lows have been set with record snowfalls. If the bugs can survive this perhaps congress will shovel a further handout to Monsanto for Roundup Ready lodgepole pine.

Rattus Norvegicus

You might be correct, if you don’t know anything about the life cycle of the mountain pine beetle. The problem is that low temperatures are a limitation on MPB populations. Here in Western Montana we have had almost a decade long outbreak of MPB because we haven’t had a good early cold snap as was fairly common out here prior to about 2002 or 2003. This had led to devastating consequences for forests around here. My friend the forester refers to a new species of pine which is appearing around here the “red pine”. That is what trees killed by the MPB look like once they have been killed. The needles turn red and stay on the trees for years.
Last year we finally had a good early freeze (read that as below zero F temps for a week) early in October. This appears (according to my forester friend) to have slowed down the MPB outbreak for this year. The reason for this is that MPB larvae develop an ant-freeze compound in the late fall which prevents them from being killed by later cold snaps.
This is causation, not correlation. There is a good reason, grounded in the biology of the MPB for this. But then you would have to know something about ecology (the science, not the slogan) in order to appreciate this.

kbray in california

A chart of my increasing gray hair over the years overlays exactly with the increasing CO2 chart… I conclude that my gray hair is caused by Climate Change… I see Fools.

Zeke

Don’t overlook the role of bark beetlesin wiping out these forests; 90% of some stands in Oregon have been killed by these pests. Control of these outbreaks would be a little quicker using such conventional silvicultural practices as removal, thinning, applying pesticides, etc.. But for states like Oregon you’ll need to cut off your affordable energy supply and use public transportation to address the problem instead.
ref: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/article_f1952d30-089b-11df-9ea8-001cc4c002e0.html
“By now, almost all the national forest’s stands of lodgepole pine have been affected”

DccMartyn

“Lodgepole pine ecosystems occupy large areas following major fires where extreme cold temperatures, poor soils and heavy, branch-breaking snows make it difficult for other tree species to compete”
The serotinous cones of the Lodgepole pine are sealed with a resin that a fire melts away, releasing the seeds, giving this species a massive advantage over other tress as primary colonists.
Now call me Dr Suspicious, but has there be a large scale change in the management of forests, with respect to fires, recently. If you don’t have fire clearance events then larger, faster growing trees will edge out the Lodgepole pines.
Lodgepole pine have a niche, colonizing fire cleared site; take away the big fires, and they will no longer be dominant.
Biology, not climatology.

BioBob

They could be correct and they could be incorrect. No one could assign a probability to either side of a prediction about the effects of future climate, nor what shape that future climate itself will take.
Clearly the recent decades of fire suppression policy by managers as well as the policy favoring clear-cutting has also had effects which may or may not have more important effects on beetle population dynamics than purported climate changes.
One thing is certain: there have ALWAYS been natural cyclical forest pest outbreaks in temperate and boreal zone forests and their likely always will be in the future. Tree species increase and decrease in abundance as well. Change is the one thing we can always count on with a 100% probability.
Our difficulty is determining why ecosystems respond the way they do. One of these centuries we may even succeed.

Andrew

Help me understand a few things; I am but a humble layman out in Washington State that likes to have fun in our great outdoors!
When temps trend higher species adapt right? Won’t new areas become hospitable to the Lodgepole Pines? Treeline will become higher, new trees will grow in areas that once were only was hospitable to grasses, shrubs and marmots, right?
It seems as if the ‘climate extremists’ have a zero sum gain mentality.
Darwin could never have been a ‘climate extremist’.

Phil's Dad

Change will always be good for some and bad for others. (If that where not so we would not now be enjoying our time as the dominant species.) Try thinking of this story from the point of view of the beetle.

INGSOC

I don’t have first hand info, but a local logger friend was telling me last year that after the previous two exceptionally cold winters, the pine beetle spread had all but stopped. I would imagine that after this past also exceptionally cold winter in the interior of BC the spread will be even further reduced. Temps below -30 apparently kill the beasties. We have had three years in a row of well below -30 temps for months on end throughout the interior. I will look around a bit more regarding this article, and perhaps speak with my logger buddy and get some real information about this subject. Those guys at UBC are zealots.

DJ

This kind of article is misleading because it omits some of the root causes of the beetle problem. Excessive and long term artificial suppression of forest fires are partly to blame.
The forests are now older growth, with older trees being more susceptible to the beetles, tree density has become unnaturally high making migration of the bugs easy and more widespread, and in some cases, unusual wind events spread the bugs.
While milder winters haven’t helped to mitigate the infestations, blaming the massive infestations entirely on climate change is inaccurate and only part of the story.
Efforts have been underway in the Tahoe basin to bring tree density back down to more typical levels of trees per acre consistent with those prior to human fire suppression. Natural fires helped maintain healthier forests, and the lodgepoles fall into the category.
There are many papers that address long term drought in the Great Basin region, where conditions similar to those being blamed now were purely natural variability existed, and the forests survived…along with the beetles.

jae

I smell a bunch of speculative CRAP here! The little environmentalists-cum-foresters in the universities have now pushed “Preservation” (NOT to be confused with Conservation (wise use)) of the forests to the point where the forests are now subject to all sorts of preventable disasters, such as: fire, bark beetles, dwarf mistletoe, and other diseases. It is VERY telling that these problems DO NOT OCCUR ON PRIVATE FOREST LANDS, ONLY ON GOV’T “MANAGED” LANDS! NEGLECT is the operative word for the USFS, USGS, and other bumbling federal agencies. Some states have decent programs, on the other hand….. But, then, the poor federal beggars no longer have any money to really MANAGE the forests, anymore, since timber sales have become almost non-existant. If they see an insect attack, they just watch it, because there is no money to do anything; if it happens on private lands, the damaged trees are cut down and burned, cancelling the “crisis.” Another example of how the Government takes care of things. LOL.
(I also have a degree in forestry, FWIW)

Ali Baba

All science is correlation. When a correlate becomes popular, by its frequent appearance, we promote it to cause.

JRR Canada

Of course no mention of the bugs other annual nemesis, forest fire. When the forests arround Prince George BC burns the top soil will be scorched, thank the BC govt for all these years of fire suppression. Oh yes its manmade climate change, when govt prevents fire from performing its natural function. The traditional definition of a expert does not need any update, drip under pressure or knowing more and more about very little and blind to the knowledge of this ignorance.

tokyoboy

In Japan too, years ago, rumor said that the decline of trees (pines in particular) was due to acid rain. However, these days they say that the main culprit is either tree bugs or air pollution due to motorization, or both. Fortunately(?) few people talk about global warming for this sort of topic (maybe Japan is still behind of the US?).

kent Blaker

I live in British Columbia and have been aware of the problem for many years. It could have been prevented by allowing local loggers to harvest the older infected trees but the government of the day needed to do studies.
The real reason for the outbreak is that we were so good at puting out forest fires that trees that would have normally burned, destroying the beetles inside ,were left to grow old and provide for more reproduction capacity for the bugs.
These trees drop needles and pine cones every year. The accumulated fuel under an old tree burns so hot as to incinerate the whole tree.

dp

So how warm has it gotten in lodge pole country?

David Davidovics

-Published in the Journal “Climate Change” *sigh*
They talk about this a lot here in BC. One thing I remember is the beetle tends to target older growth trees (As in, order than 90 years roughly), so I don’t accept that it could cause the species to collapse completely. It may kill off much of the older generation which would open things up for natural selection to take place for the seedlings however, and that is what I am more inclined to believe. I am going out on a limb here, but there are other examples around the world of long scale cycles with trees and other plants that can cause rapid die offs followed by rebounds decades later.

Douglas DC

The beetle is a part of a cycle just like warm and cold. Back in the 90’s I fought huge
pine fueled fires all over the west. At little effort of forestry (yes including fire) and the
problem is greatly reduced. As mentioned above, this is a quick growing fire prone
tree. It is part of a: FIRE ECOLOGY period. It does what it does…

Robert

I work in the forestry business in BC, and I have heard this nugget quite a bit. Too bad people do not acknowledge that Lodgepole pine is short lived species that is very pest prone. It’s mission in life is reproduce in astonishing numbers, grow extremely fast, and then die out after a relatively short life. It’s a great strategy in areas with frequent forest fires. However, in our attempt to manage this species, humans have held vast tracts of old pine stands on the stump until we are ready to harvest them in an orderly fashion. This has resulted in huge areas of old and relatively pure pine stands which have built up enormous reservoirs of pests (beetles). Add in a few relatively mild winters and we have a recipe for disaster. Mother nature gave us a spanking! It’s way too easy to blame “climate change” and ignore our management practices as the true source of this outbreak.

Look! Earth warming!
I’m looking at this thermometer its about the same as it was….
Look! Lodge Pole Pine disapearing!
Well, we put in all those fire suppression programs, now about this thermo-..
Look! For skeptics this should be obvious! Earth warming!
But the thermometer readings are about the same as-…
Look! Skeptic stupid! Can’t see evidence! Lodge Pole Pines dying!
Sure, but I’m tracking the temperature here and
Look! Skeptics don’t understand science! Bad genes!
But its colder this year than ever before….
Look! Colder! See? Earth warming!
But…huh? what?
Look! Poor upbringing!
My upbringing was just fine, now about this thermometer…
Look! Skeptics threatening violence!
I did not…
Look! Denying it too!
Are you kidding me? Are you nuts?!
Look! Ad Hominem Attack! Ad Hominem Attack!
Folks, there’s a way to win this argument, I just haven’t a clue what it is.

cotwome

“For skeptics of climate change” …
I don’t think anyone here is skeptical about the fact that the climate changes. Skeptical about “Anthropogenic Global Warming” defiantly, but not climate change. They keep moving the goal posts.

Karen D

The premise is made that “warming temperatures, less winter precipitation, earlier loss of snowpack and more summer drought already appear to be affecting the range of lodgepole pine” … but has the region actually experienced “warming temperatures, less winter precipitation, earlier loss of snowpack and more summer drought”? I live nearby and my experience doesn’t bear this out, although I have not kept detailed records. Maybe someone has.
The prof explains “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” … but how do compare “vulnerability” to climate? Shouldn’t you compare climate data to climate data?
It sounds like smoke and mirrors to me.
You could compare the number of lodgepole pines before 1980 to the number now, and if there are fewer now then yes you might say the species is “vulnerable”. But you can’t just leap from that to “climate change did it” without showing that the climate, in fact, changed, and that nothing else did.
Maybe they have data, I guess I’ll have to pursue it and find out.

philincalifornia

Here we go again.
All species, especially warm and cuddly ones like polar bears, are going to be in danger of extinction, except pests, which are going to thrive.
Of course, that’s how DNA works in the moronosphere !!

Jim Arndt

Pining

Layne Blanchard

This is neither corrolation or causation. The 1/2 degree Pine Beetle explosion isn’t selling with me. And we’ve had two unusually cold years already recently. This looks like a job for a good insecticide. Spray spray spray, and move on.

richcar that 1225

Lodgepole pines are short lived ‘pioneer species’ that rapidly sprout up after fires or logging. If you walk under stands of dead lodgepole you will see spruce, fir and aspen taking its place. If you could travel back in time to Summit County, Colorado before the miners arrived you would see a patchwork quilt of burned areas, thick lodgepole stands and old growth fir and spruce stands. Unfortunately the miners logged it all and it was replaced with Lodgepole which has now reached its old age and is now being consumed by bugs due to fire supression. Thank you bugs, I hate lodgepole.

philincalifornia

Furthermore:
“For skeptics of climate change, it’s worth noting blah blah blah …… ”
Who’s he talking about ?? Is there even one human being on the planet who is a skeptic of climate change ??

I live in pine beetle country and I’ve payed close attention to this issue.
• clear-cutting during mining booms dramatically damaged the forest
• a seven-stage healing process begins with lodgepole pine domination
• cold-spells can wipe out the pine beetles ( supposedly 5 consecutive nights @ 25 below )
• localized beetle infestations used to be stopped by lightning-fires ( now we “manage” forest fires )
• air and water pollution are part of the equation ( see also : documentary “What in the World are They Spraying” )
*** the climate has never NOT been “changing” … that is the default condition of Earth ***

Mike McMillan

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.
I was just getting accommodated to 3 meter sea level rises.

jae

“If you could travel back in time to Summit County, Colorado before the miners arrived you would see a patchwork quilt of burned areas, thick lodgepole stands and old growth fir and spruce stands. Unfortunately the miners logged it all and it was replaced with Lodgepole which has now reached its old age and is now being consumed by bugs due to fire supression.”
Is this just a Colorado pipe-dream, or do you have some data to support your “hypothesis??” Old-growth fir? In Colorado? What kind of “fir,” sir?

TomRude

2080 now? Next 2120, 2150…

RockyRoad

I spent part of the summer of 1969 spraying lodgepole pines for pine beetles in Island Park, south of Yellowstone–which time was way before 1980! It was recognized to be a major problem before anybody could conceive that Global Warming was the problem–Hey, wasn’t that about the time they were so horribly concerned about the next Ice Age?
Revisionist science is all I can say. (My least preferred “pine” is the lodgepole–I wish they’d all be eliminated so better species of evergreens could take over. I consider the lodgepole to be a weed.)
Personally,

Mark T

Rattus Norvegicus says:
February 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm

But then you would have to know something about ecology (the science, not the slogan) in order to appreciate this.

You mean, like, the fact that this happens every few hundred years? Or that there are more older trees now than there normally are largely due to mining in the late 1800s? Beetles love older trees and we did a good job of singling out the lodgepole as the most dominant tree in the NW forests. Give ’em food and they will eat.
Mark

Steven Rasey had a photo of the pine beetle kill at the east portal of the Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado (elevation 11,000 feet). If you drive east about 20 miles at an elevation of 8500 to 9000 feet (where it is much warmer) , you don’t see the bark beetle kill. Also, there was a severe outbreak of beetle kill in the late seventies. It ran its course and the forest recovered.