Peak Timber: Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreak Threatens Canadian Forests

Sal holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.
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The mountain pine beetle may look cute, but he causes tons of grief. (Photo: Str Old/Reuters)

The largest recorded bark beetle epidemic in North American history is sparking worry of peak timber in Canada, reports Natural Resources Canada.

Peak timber is a play on peak oil, the belief that at some point in the future, mankind will reach a peak in the rate at which we can pump oil.

The beetle epidemic is causing widespread mortality of the lodge pole pine forests, Alberta’s most abundant commercial tree species, according to Miyanville.com.

At the current beetle spread rate, it is estimated that 80 percent of the mature lodge pole pine will be dead by 2013.

Shawn Hacket, president of Hacket Financial Advisors, a Florida-based money-management firm that focuses on agricultural commodities, told Miyanville that the mountain pine beetle is “a catastrophic situation for the future of lumber supply.”

According to The Casper Star-Tribune, the mountain pine beetles attack “ponderosa, lodge pole and limber pines, killing them by the boring and by introducing a fungus that kills the cells that move water in the tree. The lack of water kills the needles, turning them a dark red."

Environmental factors are, of course, in play, namely an increased amount of carbon emissions.

In 2008, CBC News reported that “the cumulative impact of the beetle outbreak in the region will release 990 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases from 2000 to 2020.”

As to the outbreak's cause, the New York Times sums it up:

Foresters say the historic outbreak has several causes. Because fires have been suppressed for so long, all forests are roughly the same age, and the trees are big enough to be susceptible to beetles. A decade of drought has weakened the trees. And hard winters have softened, which allows the beetles to flourish and expand their range.

For more on the outbreak, check out this video.


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