Climate Change and Beetles

The ongoing impact of beetle-killed forests continues to make news. A five-year project headed up by B.C.’s leading universities is learning that forests killed by the mountain pine beetle are hampering the ability of the province’s 55 million hectares of forest to capture atmospheric carbon. In a Vancouver Sun column by Randy Shore today, we’re told “the combined effect of the pine beetle on lost carbon storage activity and emissions from decay in the dead pine forests exceeds carbon emissions from all other sources in B.C., about 65 million to 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.” The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) is one of the leaders in the project, pulling together the intellectual capital of the province aimed at integrating multi-disciplinary approaches to climate change.

We’re told that climate change scenarios are complicating the work of forest management and regeneration while presenting opportunities to understand what future forests might look like. It’s serious business. Climate change includes realities of what is described in the report as a climatic ‘comfort zone’ for some species of trees seen shifting north. How soon could it be that orange groves dot the landscape from Quesnel to Chetwynd?

“Through the ’90s, B.C. forests were a net sink for carbon, storing far more than would be emitted by fossil fuel burning. Since the spread of the mountain pine beetle, they have become a net carbon source. That’s because hundreds of millions of trees are no longer able to take up carbon, but are just decomposing.”
– Werner Kurz, lead scientist, Canadian Forest Service

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