Intensive research shows vigorous regrowth in beetle-killed tracts
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — After years of uncertainty over the future of Colorado’s forest landscapes, a new study by U.S. Forest Service scientists puts the recent pine epidemic into perspective.
The insect outbreak ultimately will result in more diverse and resilient forests in the long run, adding structural complexity and species diversity, researchers with the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station concluded after carefully monitoring regrowth in beetle-killed stands.
New growth is surging under the dying lodgepole canopy with the vertical growth rate of lodgepole and fir doubling in beetle-killed areas that were left untreated after the epidemic. Harvested stands also showed strong lodgepole regrowth, with aspen gaining ground in some places.
“Forests come and go … It’s not a crisis, but this was an amazing synchronism,” Forest Service biogeochemist Chuck Rhoades said of the massive pine beetle outbreak that will alter the forest landscape of the Southern Rockies for generations to come.
The bugs swarmed across vast swaths of the Canadian Rockies; they’ve invaded the Front Range and moved east to the Dakotas, especially the forests of the Black Hills.
“This event is not over, but the fear part should be over,” said Rhoades, who, with a team of researchers from the Fort Collins-based Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, has been carefully studying regeneration in beetle-killed areas. “But the idea of forest health and maintaining forest ecosystem processes is something we’ll always be thinking about,” he said. Continue reading
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