Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Beetles gone wild: how climate change hurts salmon

They're small but they're bad...they're beetles gone wild. See "R" rated video above if you're over 18 and want a laugh.

This new threat to salmon is linked to climate change. It's scary but there are solutions.

Salmon need healthy rivers with complex habitat and year-round flows of cool water. Healthy forests make this possible, and a small beetle is harming salmon by killing pine trees in salmon country in the Pacific northwest.

The mountain pine beetle is today's villain. It's a native bug that burrows into pine trees and eats yummy sapwood. The problem comes when the beetles kill entire pine forests instead of just killing isolated trees. My colleague Roy Keene calls beetles "slow fire" since they can mimic the effects of forest fires.

There are many reasons for these beetles gone wild. Forest management that converts divers, multi-age and multi-species forests into simple groups of trees all the same species and same size gives beetles a chance to kill entire forests. And...climate change worsens the problem by allowing beetles to thrive in warmer forests that are weakened by more frequent droughts. Here's an interesting short video showing dead forests from a helicopter.

What to do? Better forest management that maintains diverse forests is a great first step. Better ocean health through forestry, who knew?

...another in the long list of threats to salmon caused by climate change...

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