Here’s an interesting article about using satellites to monitor and record the spread of pine beetle infestation . . .
In western North America, mountain pine beetles infest and ravage thousands of acres of forest lands. Landsat satellites bear witness to the onslaught in a way that neither humans nor most other satellites can.
Since 1972, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Landsat satellites have been the watchman that never sleeps with spectral bands capturing the subtle turning of green mountainsides into dying forests. From the ground, the extent of forest land damage is simply too large for field observers to quantify. But 438 miles above the Earth, Landsat satellites pass over every forest in the country dozens of times a year — every year — creating a historical archive of clear, composite images that tells the hidden stories of life and death in our nation’s forests.
Such was the vision of Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall 50 years ago when he boldly called for Earth observations from space. What the U.S. Geological Survey has accumulated now are vast and continuous long-term records from Landsat that have become critical tools for agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service), which reports the status and health of our nation’s forest resources.
This one is a little tricky. A study was just released saying that forests with lots of beetle killed trees are no more likely to burn than other western forests. What it does not address is fire behavior, once started, in beetle-killed stands . . .
Mountain pine beetles have left vast tracts of dead, dry trees in the West, raising fears that they’re more vulnerable to wildfire outbreaks, but a new study found no evidence that bug-infested forests are more likely to burn than healthy ones.
In a paper released Monday, University of Colorado researchers said weather and terrain are bigger factors in determining whether a forest will burn than beetle invasions.
The findings could provide some comfort to people who live near beetle-infested forests, if those trees are statistically no more likely to burn than healthy forests.
Our recent cold snap might have slowed the pine beetles down a little, but that’s about it. Still, this is a pretty interesting discussion of the issue . . .
Montana’s recent record-breaking cold snap probably didn’t cause widespread mortality in the state’s tree-eating mountain pine beetle population, but it may have killed beetles in localized areas, according to forest health experts.
“It really takes quite a bit to kill those guys,” Diana Six, a forest entomology and pathology professor at the University of Montana, said of the cooked-grain-of-rice-sized insects with big bites.
The insects can stand temperatures as low as 30 below, she said.
Researchers are putting a lot of effort into studying the relationship between beetle killed and damaged tress and wildfire intensity . . .
Inside university laboratories and government research facilities across the country, scientists are playing with dozens of variables — mixing and matching and rearranging — to gain a better understanding of what makes wildfire go.
They’re busy building computer models as firefighters toil on steep mountainsides to put out more than a dozen new blazes in what has already become a vicious summer of destruction.
The pine beetle infestation may finally be tapering off . . .
Mountain pine beetle activity is declining in Montana, a U.S. Forest Service official says.
The finding is the result of aerial surveys last year and analyzed in the 2011 Montana Forest Insect and Disease Conditions report prepared by the Forest Service and state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
But the report also found emerging problems with western spruce budworm and pine butterfly.
The report covers about 20.5 million forested acres in Montana, including federal, state and private lands.