By Sabrina Richards | November 27, 2012
Using satellite data, researchers calculate that mountain pine beetle infestations raise summertime temperatures in British Columbia’s pine forests by 1 degree Celsius.
Pine beetle infestation increases the summertime temperatures of some Canadian forests by 1 degree Celsius—about the same impact as a forest fire—according to new findings published Sunday (November 25) in Nature Geoscience. The beetle populations, spurred into profusion by global warming, appear to be contributing to a temperature feedback loop, though it remains unclear how much the insects may affect weather patterns.
The results reinforce the conclusion that ecological disturbances like beetle infestations can have significant ecological impacts, said Allan Carroll, an insect ecologist at the University of British Columbia who did not participate in the research. “We have until very recently considered biotic disturbances a bit player [in climate change],” noted Carroll, who collaborated on a recent study showing that pine beetle outbreaks transform forests from carbon sinks into large carbon emitters. The current study confirms that pine beetles can have massive effects that set up “an uncomfortable feedback” wherein warming temperatures encourage more beetle damage, which in turn influences warming, Carroll noted.
H. Maness et al., “Summertime climate response to mountain pine beetle disturbance in British Columbia,” Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo1642, 2012.