Beetles and the Climate

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 5:40 PM GMT on June 15, 2009

Climate Change and the Forest

This week I am at the Community Climate System Model Annual Workshop . It is in Breckenridge, Colorado. In Colorado there has been a lot of discussion in the past few years about the pine beetle or the pine bark beetle. ( Archive Article in Denver Post ). These beetles are attacking lodgepole pines throughout the western United States and Canada. Some have even predicted that all of the lodgepole pine forests could be killed on many millions of acres of land.

There have been many discussions on the relationship of the pine beetle infestation and climate change. The analysis of the relationship of infestations of this type to climate change is very difficult. I give a set of links to primary references below.

When thinking about the impact of climate change on forests, attention is first paid to temperature and water. If the temperature is rising, then it is natural to expect that there will be increased water stress, especially in dry environments. Even if there is an increase in precipitation, the extra evaporation often more than offsets this additional water. With regards to the direct impact of temperature, trees have evolved to grow in certain temperature ranges. In a simplistic view, with small, slow climate change one imagines the range of trees following the climate. Of course, over the next 100 – 1000 years we are looking at fast, large climate change; there is little evidence that the forests can adapt quickly.

When the impact of a creature like the pine beetle is injected into the change of forests it gets more complex. There are historic surges of infestation. This is a very common feature in ecosystems, spurts of growth and decline – I often think of rabbits and foxes. It is, however, well known that pine beetle populations are quite sensitive to wintertime temperatures. It needs to get very cold for a period of time in order to kill the beetles. Therefore, if there is a period of sustained warm winters, then the likelihood of an infestation is increased. One question that arises, therefore, is a period of sustained warm winters natural variability or is it part of a secular trend of warming? One can quickly come to the conclusion that the spread of the pine beetle to higher altitudes and to more northern parts of Canada is consistent with warming patterns expected from global warming due to greenhouse gases.

A paper I have found useful in helping me think about climate change impacts on forests is Climate Change and Forest Disturbances: Dale et al. 2001 . For the naïve climate scientist, that’s me, this paper reframes the impact on forests. Rather than the impacts related directly to the parameters of the physical climate, i.e. temperature and water, emphasis is placed on fast disturbances of the forests. From a physical climate point of view, we have the concern of sustained droughts. There have always been droughts, but if the drought takes place when it is warmer, then there will be more stress from drying. This can lead to more dying, which is a situation that is not quickly repaired when the drought ends. Plus - if between drought and water usage the water table falls below the depth of the roots, then all can be lost.

Other types of disturbances are explosive infestations of insects and disease, fire, wind storms, ice storms, and landslides. On various scales these events have enormous, sudden impact. They interact with each other. They are related to climate change, but they are also related to other factors such as forest management, water management, and land use. They are event related, not part of some small, slow process. And this is, in fact, the general way that things work. Specific events occur with strong, regional impact.

It is in this framework of disturbances and events that the impacts of climate change need to be considered. In the next blog, I will revisit a couple of studies that link ecosystems impact to climate change, and then introduce the feedback … what is the impact of forest changes on climate change?

r



Damage from the Mountain Pine Beetle. Boreas Pass Road, Colorado, June 2009 (R. Rood)



Primary References:

Climate Change and Forest Disturbances: Dale et al. 2001 class readings

Effects of Climate Change on Range of Pine Beetles: Carrol et al. 2003

Pine Beetle Symposium 2003

Mountain Pine Beetle: US Forest Service, Amman et al. 1990

Previous Stabilization Blogs:

Warm for a 1000 Years

How Much Warming Can we Avoid

Extinction

Removing Carbon Dioxide


Previous Blogs on Phenology and Ranges of Trees

Series of Blogs in 2008 of Spring Coming Earlier

Trees Moving North


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38. Zeeker
1:47 PM GMT on June 22, 2009
Looking at today's GSST. Wow now that's what I call one big El Nino. It covers almost 3/4 of Indian Ocean and most of the Pacific. However most of that temp rise is due to increased underwater volcanic activity, From Vanatau to Aleuatian trench. Huge amounts of 3.5 tremors all over the Ring of Fire.
36. quasigeostropic
4:21 AM GMT on June 22, 2009
Beetles are a symptom of climate change--and since insect populations can be quickly mobile, while trees are not, beetles moving into new areas can cause great damage to trees not adapted to them!

Too simplistic of a statement with no meteorological facts. How many people die of the cold each yr btw? I dont believe Ive ONCE heard an AGW supporter tell me the whole story about temperature(ie: warm AND cold statistics) to advocate the AGW agenda....

There are NUMEROUS factors that affect bug populations, diseases, and mortality rates....You cant just shove "global warming" as the sole reason for every disaster. This is why much of the public does not believe in global warming. Sounds too much like a tall tale and exaggeration. In fact sebastianjer posted quotes from AGW supporters who ADMIT they intentionally exaggerate the threat so people will believe in AGW....
Member Since: November 20, 2007 Posts: 21 Comments: 192
35. quasigeostropic
4:12 AM GMT on June 22, 2009
Ricky, why not do a blog that discusses all the benefits of global warming....Because I tend to ONLY hear the bad side....You CANNOT possibly explain every conceivable bad thing that happens on this earth to warm temperatures. And then tell us we are responsible for malaria, storm surge, and any other thinkable natural disaster...
Member Since: November 20, 2007 Posts: 21 Comments: 192
34. charlesimages
10:39 PM GMT on June 21, 2009
There is similar tree damage down the road from me, pine trees filled with holes, and all dead. I'll get a pic to post here later. Red Pine trees were the ones attacked.

I am a resident in Kent City, MI by the way.
Member Since: May 25, 2006 Posts: 347 Comments: 29278
33. atmoaggie
6:29 PM GMT on June 21, 2009
Very interesting. Still learning...

"
Modern glaciers, such as those making up the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, are capable of undergoing periods of rapid shrinkage or retreat, according to new findings by paleoclimatologists at the University at Buffalo.

The paper, published on June 21 in Nature Geoscience, describes fieldwork demonstrating that a prehistoric glacier in the Canadian Arctic rapidly retreated in just a few hundred years.

The proof of such rapid retreat of ice sheets provides one of the few explicit confirmations that this phenomenon occurs.

Should the same conditions recur today, which the UB scientists say is very possible, they would result in sharply rising global sea levels, which would threaten coastal populations.

"A lot of glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland are characteristic of the one we studied in the Canadian Arctic," said Jason Briner, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and lead author on the paper. "Based on our findings, they, too, could retreat in a geologic instant."
"

From: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-06/uab-isc061909.php
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
30. Foundford
6:31 AM GMT on June 20, 2009
I have lived in the Northern Inter-mountain forest between the Cascades and the Rockies for 40 years and during this time have seen the pine bark beetle come and go. We have had years in which we were worried they were increasing and then followed by years when they are only noticeable in small areas.They are always here but not often in large numbers. I own forest land so I notice the health of my trees and I have not seen any particular trend as regards supposed increase. During my travels through these areas one often sees relatively small areas that are severely effected but it seems to me there have always been the same phenomenon occurring over the years with no particular trend. I certainly do not see the beetles moving into new territory as they seem to have been all through the region for many years. I don't see any secular increase in numbers over the years.
Just what I am seeing on the ground.
29. NRAamy
3:43 PM GMT on June 19, 2009
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 320 Comments: 31970
28. Zeeker
2:26 PM GMT on June 19, 2009
Case in point as far as societies inertia to do anything even easy changes to delay GW. For instance consider the amount of of oil burned by a single small city here. The incredible amount of heat released as a by product each night. Look at this small city in Florence Alabama.
Florence: Spends $590,000 There are 3,438 street lights in Florence with Residential areas are restricted to 100-watt bulbs. Only in high-traffic areas, do lights have a higher wattage, between 250 and 400.
For residential streets, 175-watt mercury or 100-watt, high-pressure sodium lights are used. 400-watt, high-pressure sodium lights along major boulevards,20% light the rest is heat. You'd think that by now they've would have thought..."Gee why don't we put motion sensors on those lights that way they turn off when no one is under them?" I say into you even if Miami and New Orleans was to go underwater today, society will not enact even that simple sugestion. Go to the link below to see some truly amazing pics of our world at night time.
environmentalgraffiti.com/featured/20-amazing-images-of-earth-as-seen-from-space
27. Zeeker
1:14 PM GMT on June 19, 2009
Snowfire. I agree 85ft seems like a lot. But not when it comes down to loose sand and rocks. Are there not 40ft waves? It's not like if the land called Panama is sitting on Granite. It's most at or close to sealevel. We need a comp-simul. One that takes into account centrifugal bulge and the Currents that push directly from the Pacific into the coast of Panama. Besides considering the inertia society has to overcome to do anything about GW I expect a 1 meter rise within 40 to 60 yrs.
26. Snowfire
1:01 AM GMT on June 19, 2009
Re 23:
The Panama Canal contains fresh water and crests at Gatun Lake, 85 feet above sea level. Interoceanic mixing would not appear to be an issue any time soon.
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 314
24. Zeeker
11:18 PM GMT on June 18, 2009
Hey...Where all the cricketts go!!! Or did I ask the wrong question?
23. Zeeker
2:51 PM GMT on June 18, 2009
CB, On Comment #22. I read that article and followed some links and clues. Something that was said on the news last week, about how the ocean rise being worse near the equator because of the Earth spin. So this morning it occurred to me, 'since some of Panama is at near sea level, what are the chances of the Pacific current breaking thru and mixing with the Atlantic current? Will a 1 meter rise in the ocean level do it?' Weather wise, what will be the consequences as all that warm water reaches the the convergence point that far north? Anybody capable of running a simulation? will you live to see this happen CB?
20. GulfScotsman
1:56 AM GMT on June 17, 2009
"... zomtimes.. zee beetle... iz just a beetle..."


"Imagine"... that.....

Member Since: June 15, 2006 Posts: 455 Comments: 13538
19. Snowfire
1:50 AM GMT on June 17, 2009
I assume that we are talking about Dendroctonus ponderosae here. It is worth noting that its relative D. rufipennis just happens to be running wild in the spruce forests, causing similar damage, especially on the Wasatch Plateau in Utah; meanwhile, D. frontalis and D. terebrans have been causing big kills of pines in the East recently. That leaves the firs--if the balsam woolly adelgids don't get them. This is a mess, and millions of recently killed trees will be likely to fuel superfires when ignited.
Member Since: June 29, 2005 Posts: 24 Comments: 314
18. calpoppy
9:10 PM GMT on June 16, 2009
The beetle is slowed down with cold weather, as the winters warm up they can continue their devastation over the winter. I have noticed that our native pinon pines are dying out at an alarming rate, starting at the lower elevations and traveling on up. These beetles can and will devastate our western forests. Since they live inside the tree a contact insecticide will do nothing against them, it has to be systemic I doubt very much that we can win this battle. Our environment is changing whether you believe it is man made or just a natural climatic change and sadly the way our world looks and the animals in it will change also.
Member Since: February 18, 2008 Posts: 87 Comments: 5547
17. upweatherdog
6:02 PM GMT on June 16, 2009
Quoting Zeeker:
CB, I read That report on comment #10 That science report seems a little too streched a seudo science. I go with the rotating iron core. Mars lost it's atmosphere when a huge meteor cracked open it's mantle and stopped its core from spinning. Did you read about those bacteria that got re-awakened after 120k years within the Greenland ice? Global warming will release/awake among us more than just a few new parasites, causing who knows how many new pandemics. Who knows maybe 2/3rds of manking could be wiped out. Here is a new scare headline "Due to warming, New Viruses and germs released from the ice and permafrost may cause havoc"


However, the germs that could be released from the ice due to warming are just part of nature trying to get rid of whats helping or causing the warming, humans. Nature always has a way of reseting things, and that is death. With so many people using CO2 emmiting machines, nature will adventually release something that gets rid of the people using the machines. Thats is just the way things go.
Member Since: October 14, 2007 Posts: 173 Comments: 1372
16. atmoaggie
5:54 PM GMT on June 16, 2009
New research:

"Sediment yields climate record for past half-million years

COLUMBUS, Ohio %u2013 Researchers here have used sediment from the deep ocean bottom to reconstruct a record of ancient climate that dates back more than the last half-million years.

The record, trapped within the top 20 meters (65.6 feet) of a 400-meter (1,312-foot) sediment core drilled in 2005 in the North Atlantic Ocean by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, gives new information about the four glacial cycles that occurred during that period.

The new research was presented today at the Chapman Conference on Abrupt Climate Change at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center. The meeting is jointly sponsored by the American Geophysical Union and the National Science Foundation.

Harunur Rashid, a post-doctoral fellow at the Byrd Center, explained that experts have been trying to capture a longer climate record for this part of the ocean for nearly a half-century. "We've now generated a climate record from this core that has a very high temporal resolution, one that is decipherable at increments of 100 to 300 years," he said.

While climate records from ice cores can show resolutions with individual annual layers, ocean sediment cores are greatly compressed with resolutions sometimes no finer than millennia.
"

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-06/osu-syc061509.php

Huh. I wonder how recent the record goes to. I'd like to reliably know what was going on 1200 to 600 years ago.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
14. Zeeker
4:44 PM GMT on June 16, 2009
CB, I read That report on comment #10 That science report seems a little to stretched a pseudo science. I go with the rotating iron core. Mars lost its atmosphere when a huge meteor cracked open it's mantle and stopped its core from spinning. Did you read about those bacteria that got re-awakened after 120k years within the Greenland ice? Global warming will release/awake among us more than just a few new parasites, causing who knows how many new pandemics. Who knows maybe 2/3rds of mankind could be wiped out. Here is a new scare headline "Due to warming, New Viruses and germs released from the ice and permafrost may cause havoc"
13. NRAamy
4:43 PM GMT on June 16, 2009
12. Sh0cK 7:13 AM PDT on June 16, 2009
So getting back to this beetle, do we know that they can't survive in sustained cold or is this just an assumption?


has anyone consulted the beetle?

why not try throwing some in a meat locker, see what happens?
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 320 Comments: 31970
12. Sh0cK
2:13 PM GMT on June 16, 2009
So getting back to this beetle, do we know that they can't survive in sustained cold or is this just an assumption?
Member Since: November 3, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 182
6. NRAamy
10:51 PM GMT on June 15, 2009
what ya gonna do? Sick Al Gore on me?

OHHHHHHH....I'm so scared.....

;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 320 Comments: 31970
4. NRAamy
10:38 PM GMT on June 15, 2009
Damn...I'm good...knocked cb right out...

next?
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 320 Comments: 31970
3. NRAamy
10:35 PM GMT on June 15, 2009
Who is going to throw the first punch?

KA-POW!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 320 Comments: 31970

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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.
Clouds in the lee of the Rockies at sunset.