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Canada Deep freeze helped, but experts warn we're not out of the woods in fight against pine beetles

16:41  21 january  2020
16:41  21 january  2020 Source:   edmontonjournal.com

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As Albertans were cursing and complaining the recent cold weather warnings, Alberta Forestry found a silver lining with experts predicting the freezing temperatures aided in the fight against the mountain pine beetle .

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a close up of a bug: A dead pine beetle is shown on the inside of a piece of bark peeled from a beetle-killed tree near Albany, Wyo., on July 12, 2017. Mills in the heart of Canada's timber industry have fallen quieter this winter as wildfires and infestations made worse by climate change have made vast tracts of once valuable forest into barren stands of dead trees. © Dan Elliott A dead pine beetle is shown on the inside of a piece of bark peeled from a beetle-killed tree near Albany, Wyo., on July 12, 2017. Mills in the heart of Canada's timber industry have fallen quieter this winter as wildfires and infestations made worse by climate change have made vast tracts of once valuable forest into barren stands of dead trees.

As Albertans were cursing and complaining the recent cold weather warnings, Alberta Forestry found a silver lining with experts predicting the freezing temperatures aided in the fight against the mountain pine beetle.

Most heavily seen in Jasper National Park and the area around Hinton and Edson, mountain pine beetles have been one of the prominent threats to Alberta forests in recent years as swarms of the pest made their way east from B.C. destroying large swaths of trees in their paths.

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Like mountain pine beetles , fire is native to western forests, and it’s as important as rain to their health. It nourishes soil, spreads seeds, creates In 2008 Carroll and other researchers produced a report for the Canadian government, concluding that the risk of the mountain pine beetle infesting jack pines in

As the pests have been able to continue east in past years, found as far as Lac La Biche County, Caroline Whitehouse, forest health specialist with the provincial government, said Alberta may have caught a break with its recent cold weather warnings.

“This cold snap would definitely have improved the situation for sure,” said Whitehouse. “All the models kind of predicted that they would suffer more mortality than we have seen in the previous few years.”

While predictions are favourable after a week that featured temperatures between -30 C and -40 C across most of the province, Whitehouse cautioned the beetles are resilient and the weather would have primarily affected the beetles in the coldest areas of Alberta.

The bugs have adapted to Canadian winters as they create an anti-freeze in their blood that increases throughout the colder months allowing the bugs to survive in Alberta’s harsh winters, Whitehouse said.

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BLUE ANCHOR, N.J. — “Heads up!”. Deep in the woods , the whine of chain saws pierced the fall air, and Steve Garcia shouted a warning to fellow loggers as a 40-foot pitch pine crashed to the ground. He was chopping down trees to save the forest as part of New Jersey’s effort to beat back an invasion

The mountain pine beetle has killed large numbers of the lodgepole pine trees in the northern mountains of the US state of Colorado.

“In an outbreak situation like we have in the Edson forest area, around Hinton and so on, we’d have to have a temperature of at least -35 C for more than a couple of hours for at least 90 per cent of the mountain pine beetle exposed to those temperatures to die,” said Whitehouse.

Close up view of a black spotted pine sawyer beetle (Monochamus Galloprovincialis). © Getty Close up view of a black spotted pine sawyer beetle (Monochamus Galloprovincialis).

A 95 to 96 per cent mortality rate is needed to reduce the beetles numbers, Whitehouse said.

To add to the bugs resilience, Mike Underschultz, a senior forest entomologist with Alberta Forestry, said the mountain pine beetles’ sheer numbers would make it very difficult to rid the province entirely of the pest and allow them to recover from a cold winter with a few years of nice weather.

“They can bounce back from these things too because they’re not killing every beetle in the stand,” said Underschultz. “You kill enough to get to the point where maybe they’re not as effective at killing large numbers of trees and getting into that outbreak situation, but if you have a few years of nice weather they can eventually bounce back.”

A sustained cold period last February also assisted in culling the beetle’s numbers, however they still were able to continue moving east.

Edmonton’s cold snap appears to have ended with Environment Canada forecasting a high of -6 C on Monday. Those numbers are expected to climb throughout the week, hitting a high of 5 C on Friday.

dshort@postmedia.com

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