Forests: Study says spruce beetle not a big factor in recent southwest Colorado wildfires


A major spruce beetle outbreak has been spreading across forests of southwest Colorado, but that hasn’t been a big factor in recent wildfires in the region, according to CU-Boulder research.

Climate, topography likely more significant, researchers say

Staff Report

Colorado researchers have added another chapter to the long-running debate over beetle-kill and wildfires, finding that spruce beetle infestations haven’t increased the severity of wildfires in southwestern Colorado.

Spruce bark beetles have affected roughly half a million acres of Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir forests across the state in recent years, with infestations documented across an additional 87,000 acres in 2014. Continue reading

Aerial survey shows pine beetles waning, but spruce beetles continue to spread across Colorado forests

Aerial surveys help track forest changes over time


Nearly every mature spruce has been killed by spruce beetle in this drainage on the Rio Grande National Forest.Photo: Brian Howell.

Spruce beetles are spreading quickly in southwestern Colorado.

Spruce beetles are spreading quickly in southwestern Colorado. Graph courtesy USFS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There’s good news and bad news from Colorado’s forests. Mountain pine beetle activity has faded to the lowest level since 1996, but spruce beetles continue to spread in the San Juans and in northwestern Colorado.

The spruce beetle outbreak was detected on 485,000 acres in 2014, compared to 398,000 acres across the state in 2013, according to the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service. The annual aerial survey by the two agencies shows that the spruce beetle outbreak expanded to 253,000 new acres. Continue reading

Forests: Spruce beetles spreading fast in southern Rockies

State report details status of insect activities


Spruce beetles are widely active across the mountains of southern Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Windstorms, mild winters and drought are the key factors in the continued spread of spruce beetles, which have become the dominant change agent in Colorado forests the past few years.

According to the latest annual forest health report compiled by state forest experts, spruce beetles were active across 398,000 acres in 2013, affected more than triple the amount of acreage than mountain pine beetles. Continue reading

Good news, bad news for Colorado forests

Pine beetle infestation slows, but spruce beetles continue to spread


Healthy spruce-fir forest at Vail Pass. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — There’s good news and bad news for Colorado forests, according to state and federal officials, who said last week that the mountain pine beetle epidemic slowed dramatically in 2013, while spruce beetles continued to spread.

Statewide, mountain pine beetles were active on 97,000 acres in 2013, the lowest acreage of active infestation in 15 years. Since 1996, mountain pine beetles have killed trees across 3.4 million acres.

Spruce beetle were active on 398,000 acres, expanding by 216,000 new acres in 2013, compared to 183,000 new acres in 2012. The total area affected by this beetle since 1996 has reached more than 1.1 million acres. Continue reading

Study: Drought the prime driver of spruce beetle outbreak

Long-term climate shifts linked with historic spruce beetle episodes in Colorado


A Colorado spruce forest near Shrine Pass, Colorado.


Spruce beetles are spreading rapidly and killing trees in the southern Rockies.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The current spruce beetle outbreak in Colorado’s high country has the potential to grow larger in scope than the recent mountain pine beetle epidemic that killed mature lodgepole pines across millions of acres.

And the trigger of for the spruce beetles is drought that’s linked with long-term changes in sea-surface temperatures in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, a trend that is expected to continue for decades, according to a new study by scientists with the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The new study is important because it shows that drought is a better predictor of spruce beetle outbreaks in northern Colorado than temperature alone, said Sarah Hart, a CU-Boulder doctoral student in geography. Continue reading

Environment: Are Colorado’s majestic high country spruce forests next on the bark beetle hit list?

Global warming is likely to increase insect populations and make trees more susceptible to attacks


So far, high-elevation spruce-fir forests in Summit County have been relatively free of spruce beetles, with the exception of a hotspot in the Baylor Park area, near Ski Sunlight. Spruce beetle activity south of Breckenridge has slowed down. Bob Berwyn photo.


Spruce beetles are spreading quickly in the San Juans.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The mountain pine beetle epidemic has run its course in the Colorado high country, but there’s a new bug on the rise.

Spruce beetles have killed huge swaths of mature spruce beetles in southwestern Colorado, especially on the Rio Grande National Forest — and they appear to be moving north.

Researchers and resource managers are trying to get ahead of the curve to anticipate how far the outbreak will spread in Colorado’s 4.7 million acres of spruce-fir forest, and how the bugs  may affect wildfire behavior and ecosystem services in a zone where large fires are rare. Continue reading

Colorado: Pine beetle epidemic wanes

Spruce beetle infestation grows in southwestern mountains


Aerial surveys show that spruce beetles are spreading in SW Colorado, while pine beetles slow their attack in the northern and central part of the state.


The spread of mountain pine beetles slowed to levels last seen in 2003.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Mountain pine beetle activity in Colorado dropped dramatically in 2012, to the lowest level in 10 years, according to state and federal officials who this week released the the results of their latest aerial surveys.

Mountain pine beetles are still spreading across parts of the mountains between Estes Park and Leadville, but new activity was reported on just 31,000 acres, down from 141,000 acres in 2011. Since the outbreak started in 1996, beetles killed trees across more than 3.4 million acres, but it’s important to remember that not every single tree died.

In the aftermath of the infestation, foresters are finding that pockets of younger trees survived the wave of beetles, even in the hardest-hit areas. Continue reading


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