Posts Tagged ‘boreal forest decline’

This is the third and last part of the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic series. If you are just tuning in now, no worries, there is a bit of interesting information here.

I would like to give another shout-out to the JCTC Biology instructor by name, but I cannot quite recall his name (it may be Burke- not sure), so if someone knows it, please tell me, so that everyone in the blogosphere will know about his good work and dedication to prison education. I think his wife may also be involved in prison work as well.

That inmate education for nonviolent Class D Kentucky offenders is being eliminated is tragic. I wonder what the rationale is for eliminating education, treatment and job skills training and ability to exit incarceration with vouching work references in hand is. Class D nonviolent offenders will be released into the community. As a member of the community, what would you prefer: an educated person, with references in hand, who is excited about turning the second half of her life into a positive, or a warehoused, traumatized person who has spent several years on the cement floor of an overcrowded jail cell learning a new criminal skill set?

note: Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.

Rocky Mountain Vista
Rocky Mountain Vista by Krossbow on flickr under Creative Commons.

Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic Related terms Of Interest

boreal– of or pertaining to the North (think Aurora Borealis). Forest areas of the North Temperate Zone.

endemic-of animals. Prevalent in a particular region.

epidemic– A rapid spread, growth or development (ie: United States incarceration rates)

pandemic-epidemic over a wide geographical area.

silviculture– the cultivation of forests.

carbon sink– a natural carbon vacuum or reservoir.

xeriscape– water-conserving landscaping.

defensible space– The area around a structure that is treated or cleared, to reduce or slow a fire.

verbenone– a “no vacancy” pheromone sign.

chlorotic– yellowed or brownish red due to diminished chlorophyll and cell death in leaf tissue.

Carbon and temperature

As atmospheric CO2, in parts per million, rises, so does the earth’s surface temperature. This, in turn, leads to drought and stresses trees, making them more susceptible to infestation. Killed trees then become a fire-prone fuel source, susceptible to intense-heat fire. In cyclic fashion, more fire leads to more CO2.

The Canadian Forest Service no longer lists its huge forests as a “carbon sink,” because at the moment, the opposite is true: they have changed from natural carbon vacuum (sucking up 55 million tons per year) to producer (245 million tons per year).

Silviculture, human perception and intervention

In terms of forest management, who or what caused the current forest decline is irrelevant. Nature is taking its course without regard to political views. Since humans are an integral part of our North American forest ecosystem, forest management is a necessary and responsible activity, and not a waste of time or money. Any cascading event such as a forest beetle pandemic will affect current and future timber and recreation industries, raise safety concerns, and motivate further study.

US government grants to the US Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service, can promote meaningful research and forest management. Since no known activities will stop the natural course of the current outbreak, we may need to accept the fact that our future forests will reflect a radical shift from past decades. With that in mind, damage control, safety and public education are primary objectives.

Management efforts include:

-Removal of hazardous trees.
-ongoing public education.
-management and rules for temporary roads and trails, to prevent civilian misuse and injury.
-thinning and reducing fuel load.
-managing fuel breaks.
-monitoring natural regeneration.
-conducting prescribed burning.
-putting blue-stained wood to use.
-continued study, data collection and evaluation.


Ironically, “beetlewood” has created a temporary sawmill industry boom. Beetles have killed so many trees that some officials have “more than doubled their allowable timber harvest” (Struck, Washington Post). This economic industrial boost will ideally lead to long-term balance and consistency, for environment and industry alike.


Campbell, N., Mitchell, L., Reece, J., Biology Menlo Park, CA, 1997. 38.13, Carbon dioxide and other gases added to the atmosphere may cause global warming.

Amman, G., McGregor, M., and Dolph, R., Mountain Pine beetle. Forest Insect and Disease. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, “Forest Insect and Disease Leaflet.” 1990.

Marcus, N., and Halford, M., Our Future Forests 2008 Guide for the landowner. NW Colorado Forest Health Guide, 2008.

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Record of Decision, Vail Valley Forest Health Project, March, 2006.

Brown, J., Report: Warming cuts trees’ life in half. 1/23/09.

Bentz, B., Western US Bark Beetles and Climate Change. May, 2008. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Climate Change Resource Center.

Fox, M., Pine Beetles May Affect Climate Change- Study. April 23, 2008.

Struck, D., ‘Rapid Warming’ Spreads Havoc in Canada’s Forests. March 1, 2006.
Washington Post Foreign Service.

Clayton, M., Carbon Sink Springs a Leak. March 11, 2009. Christian Science Monitor.

Glick, Daniel. The Big Thaw. National Geographic., September, 2004.

Once again, a hat-tip to my amazing nephew and Vail resident Ray, who provided references. He has worked to help control the epidemic in his area. Plus he is the most amazing extreme skier I have ever seen in my life. He does things on skis that would leave me talking through an electronic voice box for the rest of my life, including, but not limited to being towed, on skis, by a galloping horse, my hand to God, and there is a photo.

mountain pine beetle treatments

Photo by Forest Service Northern Region under Creative Commons on flickr, with description:

“Spraying Ponderosa Pine with Carbaryl in May, 2011 in Bitterroot National Forest Campgrounds to prevent Mountain Pine beetle damage. Contractor sprays entire bole of tree to 50 feet high. Carbaryl is a pesticide (Sevin).”

More information on the beetle and the epidemic.

I wrote this descriptive, generalized paper while I was in prison at PeWee Valley (KCIW), for a night Biology class, offered through the college JCTC. While I have a degree in Biology, it had been 30 years since I had taken an introductory course, so I enrolled in this class on “canteen scholarship.” It was taught by a Kentucky Department of Transportation worker who was in charge of managing the side of the roads. This is a huge job. The strips bordering the roads can mean the difference between life and death for travelers, because vines such as the pernicious kudzu can block views. Also, the instructor spoke at length about the multi-million dollar cleanup effort that Kentucky faced, after the ice storm. After his work during the day, the instructor continued in God’s work by donating his teaching to the college and to the prison inmates. It was one of the most delightful classes I have ever taken.

Unfortunately, the prison eliminated education to nonviolent Class D offenders and, in the interest of money, shipped these inmates back into the jails, where there was no hope of college education or treatment of any kind.

Because of my unusually long eight year sentence, I was not transferred with the other Class D inmates. This placed me into a Class C sort of category, and I “grandfathered in” to continue my schooling. I am thankful.

This paper is edited for this site, and I would like to hat tip my nephew Ray, who lives and works in Vail. He was a volunteer in the effort to control the epidemic, and he helped me with some articles, because I had no internet access in the prison. Ray, thank you.


A mountain Pine Beetle, by WBUR under Creative Commons, attribution, noncommercial, nonderivative on flickr.

The Pine Beetle And Its Life Cycle

The Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB), Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, is an insect of the largest animal Order, Order Coleoptera (beetles). Its life cycle consists of four complete metamorphic stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The life cycle lasts about a year, and is completed almost entirely under the bark of host evergreen trees that include ponderosa, sugar and whitepines (major), as well as limber, coulter, foxtail, whitebark, pinyon, bristlecone and Scotch pine.

The MPB larvae are parasitic herbivores with biting and chewing mouthparts; most tree damage occurs during the 10-month-long larval stage.-snip-White legless larvae feed on the host phloem tissue from August of one year to June of the next year. Fattened larvae then excavate additional cells for the pupa stage, which lasts about a month. Adults then eat and burrow an exit to the surface, whereupon they fly, sometimes as far as six miles, to neighboring tree stands, where the cycle is repeated. During this flight, often helped by winds, females secrete male-attracting pheromones, bringing more beetles and concentrating attack numbers.

The Trees And Their Life Cycle

Pine trees are gymnosperms (meaning that their seeds are not contained in fruit) that evolved long before flowering plants. A pine contains both male and female gametophytes, a tree’s equivalent to sperm and egg. Female pine cones are fertilized by small male cone pollen. An embryo encased in a seed coat develops, and is dispersed by wind or by animals.

Pine trees extract water from the soil and pull it upward, against gravity, in the xylem tissue, through transpiration- a tree’s equivalent to sweating. Photosynthesis in the needles utilizes sunlight to convert CO2 and water into sugar and oxygen. This process utilizes chlorophyll, a green molecule that is similar in structure to animal hemoglobin. Sugar then moves, in solution, from the needles to other tree parts that require energy, by way of the phloem.

Since sap-containing phloem cells contain sugar, they are a good beetle food source. When osmotic water flows into high-sugar-concentrated resin-filled cells and tissues, a balanced hydrostatic gradient is established. In healthy trees, a copious flow of sap can actually “pitch out” a beetle attack, such that the beetles drown in the pitch. The tree must not, however, be in a state of stress in order to mount this important defense.

I am presenting this in parts, because I believe the entire discussion is too lengthy for the internet.

Next: Endemic versus epidemic and conditions that favor epidemic, and the role of fire.