Increasing forest biodiversity could inhibit pine beetle plague

pine beetle plague forest biodiversity
When pine beetles come as plagues they are not just bad for ecosystems and – by literally killing entire forests – Earth’s carbon balance, they can also present a significant financial loss to the forestry sector.

But apart from planting continent’s full of trees in an attempt to lower carbon concentrations, solve climate change and thereby restore the -35 degrees Celsius winters in Canada that dry-freeze the larvae and halve their US cousins’ reproduction season, what else can they do to combat the pine beetle plague? A thing or two, it seems.

Today Timothy Schowalter, Entomology Professor at Oregon State University, shared some of his thoughts (PDF) in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, brought to us by the Entomological Society of America. Always happy to raise an impact factor.

In order for the bark beetles in the US southern pine forests not to become plagues, also the non-climatological circumstances should be arranged in a way that makes the beetle rediscover its own natural place within the ecosystem.

Ideally, instead of having one pine subspecies in forestry monoculture, the tree biodiversity should be high and host trees should be separated by unfitting trees or less attractive pine trees.

The other big tip is not to clean cut many acres of forest all at once, but to operate by forest thinning and selected logging instead. This too can help create barriers that may hinder an all too rapid spread of the pine bark beetles, Schowalter states.

Of course it wouldn’t hurt the landscape either, mixing trees of different types and ages and including a couple open-canopy spots, whether by logging or indeed some natural pine beetle action.

In ecology diversity equals good. Lose too much of it, and the subsequent cascade may even include domino forests.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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