Bark beetles have always been part of Western forests, cycling from massive outbreaks into periods of low activity. But the current beetle outbreak is unprecedented – it has killed 30 million acres of lodgepole, ponderosa, jack pine and whitebark so far, in a swath from New Mexico up into Canada and even Alaska.
Now, scientists are finding that the immense destruction is being helped along by climate change. Warming temperatures mean that bark beetles mature from egg to tree-trashing adult in one year instead of two, and even produce eggs for a second generation.
The findings bear out predictions described in our 2004 story “Global Warming’s Unlikely Harbingers“, by High Country News contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis. That feature explained how years earlier, Jesse Logan, research entomologist for the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station, and fellow scientists had begun wondering how global warming might affect beetle outbreaks, and had plugged various temperature increases into a computer model:
From Bug Girl