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Morning photo: Ominous beauty

Beetle-killed trees are part of the landscape

There's an ominous beauty to beetle-killed forests.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After spending Friday afternoon and evening at the For the Forest symposium in Aspen, listening to leading scientists outline their recent research on global warming impacts on forests, it made me go back and look at some of my local forest images in a new light. I’ve come to take the rust colored trees for granted, if that’s the right expression. They’re just there, part of the landscape, and in some cases, like the following image, they even add a splash of color to the scene.

Officer's Gulch Pond, between Frisco and Copper on I-70. This image shows how selective the beetles are, killing every lodgepole, but leaving the spruce and firs untouched. You can also see a smaller patch of light green aspens in the center left part of the scene.

There may be beauty in the reflected scene, but the message from climate and forest researchers is ominous — forests across the West are dying faster than they are re-growing, and forests around the world are being hit hard by climate change.

Pine beetle mortality has spread all the way to the summit of Mt. Royal, in Frisco, Colorado, showing that elevation, which once seemed to limit the spread of the insects, is no longer as important a factor.

is there any hope? We need to immediately find the political and social will to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions, and some researchers suggest studying options for replanting with new species and using managed fire to improve forest health. Click on the image for more.

In this area near the Lily Pad Lake trail, the lodgepoles have died, but since there hasn't been any logging, the understory is healthy and lush. Click on the image to see photos from a local clearcut that left quite a mess for a contrasting picture.

The area around the Old Dillon Reservoir trail is where I go to do informal assessments of the forest, and on my most recent visit, I saw this troubling sign — a very young lodgepole recently killed by the beetles. Up to know, I had been seeing a lot of regrowth in that area. young trees were thriving in the sunlight as the old canopy died away, but recent forest surveys show the beetles have stayed around to attack trees they previously missed. Click here to read more about how beetles will spread faster in a warming world.

I've come to accept the starkness of the dead trees as part of our local landscape, but we all need to be concerned about the impacts of global warming on the planet's forested ecosystems.

Does global warming spell a permanent sunset for forests?

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One Response

  1. I like the poetic “hope” with the rainbow picture and the “permanent sunset” with the stark sunset picture.

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