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.
FRISCO —Bark beetles have already killed millions of acres of mid-elevation forests across the West, and warming temperatures are enabling the tree-killing bugs to invade higher elevations, where they are attacking trees that haven’t evolved with strong defenses to repel them.
Aug. 29 lunch meeting includes info on local logging and restoration
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Local forests appear to be starting a comeback from a decade-long pine beetle invasion that killed up to 75 percent of mature lodgepole pines in the area, says Howard Hallman, co-director of the Summit Forest Health Task Force, which has been tracking the course of the epidemic and working with stakeholders to spur mitigation and restoration efforts.
New study helps quantify ignition time of beetle-killed trees
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Chemical changes in pine attacked by bark beetles start as soon as two weeks after the bugs start to burrow under the bark and make the trees more prone to ignition.
Overall, beetle-killed trees in the early and mid-stages of infestation may pose a greater risk of fast-spreading crown fires, though other factors are also important, including the structure of the tree, the presence or absence of ground and ladder fuels and terrain and weather. Continue reading “Forests: Red, dead needles burn faster”→
In the end, the bugs killed about 75 percent of the mature, susceptible lodgepole pine trees in the area, according to Colorado state forester Paul Cada. In neighboring Grand County, where lodgepole forests were even more prevalent than in Summit County, between 95 to 98 percent of the trees were killed by the beetles, Cada said.
He estimated that about 60 percent of Summit County’s forest cover consisted of lodgepole pine before the beetle outbreak, with 40 percent a mix of spruce and fir (along with a sprinkling of aspen and tiny pockets of trees like Douglas fir, which grow on rocky outcrops around Swan Mountain). Continue reading “Summit County: Pine beetle numbers drop sharply”→
SUMMIT COUNTY — Conservation experts, forest managers, loggers and scientists will gather at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge this week to pow-wow once again on the condition of Colorado’s devastated lodgepole pine stands.
Montana wildfire observations will increase understanding of fire behavior in changing Western forests
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Fire experts said they were surprised by the intensity of a pair of fires that burned in Montana this summer during less-than-extreme fire weather. The fire moved through areas of beetle-killed lodgepole faster than some previous fire modeling suggested.
The rapid spread of the two fires was probably the result of a perfect mix of fuels, including recent beetle-killed lodgepole pine with flammable red needles, stands of older beetle-kill in the gray stage. Live trees and an a full-grown understory that provided ladder fuels.
The observations could help experts gain a better understanding of how fires will behave in beetle-killed forests. Some previous fire observations, in Yellowstone, for example, suggested that pure stands of dead gray-stage lodgepoles could actually slow the spread of a blaze, and some fire modeling has also suggested that the gray trees are not as susceptible to fire. Continue reading “Experts surprised by intense fires in beetle-killed stands”→