Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pine beetle damage in Colorado

I have heard about the extensive mortality inflicted on some of the pine forests in Colorado by the pine beetle, but I did not have a full appreciation for it until last weekend when I attended a Yamaha FJR 1300 motorcycle gathering in Boulder, Colorado. On Saturday I went for a ride through Rocky Mountain National Park and was stunned by the impacts. A few tracts of hundreds of acres each on my route had 100% mortality. I shot the video below in an area that had 30-50% mortality.

It is going to be very interesting when a fire burns through these areas. Some urban locations are affected as well, with some houses having several dead trees towering above them, creating a major problem for homeowners.

Here are articles on the subject by Newsweek, USA Today, and Colorado State University.

The video is 53 seconds long.


David said...

I agree - good post. I visited Colorado earlier this summer and was stunned by the extent of the PB damage. The state of CO has a VERY interesting future ahead in terms of wildfire risk! I believe that the potential for great forest compositional changes exist for the next several decades, as we may see significant increases the number aspen stands.

Bill Gabbert said...

Here is more information about the pine beetles:

“Our models tell us right now that the mountain pine beetle will kill approximately 76 percent of mature lodgepole pine by 2015,” Jim Snetsinger, British Columbia’s chief forester, said. “We believe the infestation has peaked but that it will continue to kill pine trees.”

Following its destruction of tens of millions of lodgepole pine acres in Canada, the mountain pine beetle has nibbled its way south, killing forests throughout the Rocky Mountain West, including Northwest Colorado. Experts in Canada and the U.S. are beginning to call the insect epidemic the worst on record.

In January, the U.S. Forest Service announced Colorado’s total infestation had reached more than 1.5 million acres, nearly all of the state’s lodgepole pine trees.

The magnitude of the epidemic has caught many off guard, as evidenced by comments made in a 2004 DVD by John Twitchell, a Steamboat Springs-based forester with the Colorado State Forest Service.

“If we don’t treat the mountain pine beetle now, the potential for thousands of acres to be killed, brown hillsides, is very real,” Twitchell said at the time. “The mountain pine beetle may drive our management for a year or two.”

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