Devastating Spruce Beetle outbreak in Colorado linked to drought, climate change

Spruce Beetle
CC BY 3.0 Wikimedia

A biblical plague for trees

A new study published in the journal Ecology shows that a massive outbreak of Spruce Beetle is linked to drought conditions in the Colorado mountains, and this drought it tied to "long-term changes in sea-surface temperatures from the Northern Atlantic Ocean, a trend that is expected to continue for decades." While causality can never be 100% certain in these kinds of things, it certainly seem like climate change is indirectly making these insect outbreaks more likely and/or more severe.

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 lead study author Sarah Hart, a CU-Boulder doctoral student in geography. Drought conditions appear to decrease host tree defenses against spruce beetles, which attack the inner layers of bark, feeding and breeding in the phloem, a soft inner bark tissue, which impedes tree growth and eventually kills vast swaths of forest. (source)

The Mountain Pine Beetle is getting more press because of the havoc it is causing in the Southern Rocky Mountains, but the Spruce Beetle has the potential to be equally or even more devastating in Colorado, says the lead author of the study.

Via UC Boulder

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