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Creature no larger than a grain of rice colours BC forests a deathly red

The Ubyssey
October 30, 2017
Reported By:
Jonny Warschauer, Ubyssey
Categories:
MSL in the News

Aided by climate change, the Mountain Pine Beetle has already spread into BC’s forests and threatens forests in eastern Canada.

A quiet battle is being fought in the forests of western North America, and millions of pine trees are dying in its wake. Shades of green that once permeated the flora of British Columbia’s forests are disappearing.

The insides of lodgepole pines are turning blue with a fungus — it is aptly named the blue stain fungus.  The trees’ needles are shifting to shades of dull brownish-red. Aerial surveys have observed rolling hills of northwestern pine forests stretching to the horizon without a healthy tree in sight. Estimates place the total affected area somewhere between ten and 18 million hectars — roughly the size of Syria.

Due to the epidemic, the state of North American pine trees is extremely bleak.

According to Christine Chiu — a graduate student focusing on botany and chemical ecology at UBC — climate change, specifically rising temperatures, has played a major role in the widespread decline of the forests over the course of the past two decades.

But a warmer climate hasn’t been the force directly devastating these woods. Rising temperatures from Colorado up the spine of the Rockies to the Northwest Territories have facilitated the insidious creep of an insect middleman: the mountain pine beetle.

The mountain pine beetle is the species plaguing the pine trees of Canada and the United States. These beetles are the bridges connecting human fuelled climate change to the widespread destruction of the western forests of North America.

Aided by human activity, the mountain pine beetle, a creature no larger than a grain of rice, is the direct cause of this arboreal strife.

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