Saturday 27 April 2019

Trees dying by the million in the US and now Europe with beetle epidemics fuelled by drought and warming is a wildfire accident waiting to happen

Photo dead trees dominate California
Nearly one in every 14 standing trees in Colorado forests is dead, according to the latest report on the health of the state's wooded areas.
The study, released Wednesday by Colorado State Forest Service out of Colorado State University, calculated an estimated one billion dead trees, many of them succumbing to two beetle epidemics. That's a tree casualty increase of 30 per cent in the last nine years.
An estimated 200 million trees are dead in California and Pine Beetles are fuelling the deaths.
And now, Reuters,  are claiming the problem is causing chaos in Europe too.
Hot, dry summers are fanning an unprecedented outbreak of bark beetles that are destroying vast swathes of central Europe’s spruce forests which define the region’s landscape.
Drought brought on by climate change has weakened trees’ natural defences and helped spawn the insects, creating an infestation that has forced landowners to chop down broad patches of forest across the Czech Republic, northern Austria, Bavaria and Slovakia.
While the bark beetle is natural to conifer forests and has a role in their ecosystem, climate change has helped it spread especially through single-variety spruce woods planted over the past two centuries.
The Czech Republic has been the worst hit.
Last year, the beetle, infested 18 million cubic meters of spruce, more than 10 times amounts seen in most previous years, according to Agriculture Ministry estimates.
This year, forecasts range from 20 to 30 million cubic meters, out of 480 million cubic meters of spruce timber in total, as the situation is expected to deteriorate across the region, especially given a lack of rainfall so far this spring.
“Eighty per cent of Czech spruce forests are at high risk of dying,” said Jaromir Blaha, forest expert at Hnuti Duha, an environmental NGO.
“Most of our spruce monocultures in lower and mid-laying areas will probably disappear, in years or in a few decades.”
Think tank Czech Forest says the area destroyed last year alone was equal to 100,000 soccer fields.
Bark beetles grow to about half a centimetre in length.
They mate under the bark and lay eggs.
Larvae make feeding tunnels in the trees, mostly killing them.
Young adults fly out and, when the weather allows, repeat the process once or twice per season. Upper Austria’s minister for agriculture, Max Hiegelsberger, in a report on forestry in 2018, said the situation was “dramatic” as more than half the felled timber in his region was damaged, and forest owners were seeing a huge drop in income.

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