So many of us have seen the effects of Mountain Pine Beetles on forest we’ve visited here in the west ~ up close we see dead or dying trees and from afar perhaps a red and gray hue from within a forest canopy.
Mostly, we’ve come to learn via media accounts, the words and tones of managers – even conservationists – that Pine Beetles are “negative”, that they’re a “threat” to “healthy” forests.
Testimony of George Wuerthner June 19, 2009 Joint Oversight Hearing on “Mountain Pine Beetle: Strategies for Protecting the West”:
Let me start my testimony by suggesting that many of the phrases and words used to describe natural ecological processes like episodic pine beetle events and wildfire are pejorative in tone. We heard a lot of people testifying in this hearing that pine beetles were destroying the forests and/or wildfires were catastrophic and so forth. From the perspective of human values, these words might resonate—certainly if a wildfire burns down someone’s home, it is a devastating experience. However, it is less clear that these terms are appropriate in describing natural ecological events like pine beetle events or large blazes. (See my comments on this in Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy or Rocca and Romme (2009).
George also points out that some scientists increasingly believe that dead trees may be more important to a forest ecosystem than living ones ~ beetles characterize a healthy forest ecosystem.
Beetle Hysteria Again – New West, George Wuethner:
Even more importantly the news media often neglects to educate the public about the ecological value of bark beetles as “ecosystem engineers”. Beetles are essential to maintaining biodiversity in our forests. One study of bark beetles in Europe found that bark beetles created habitat for a wide array of other insect species, including many pollinating bees and warps, whose numbers increased in the forest gaps created by bark beetles.
But it’s not just insects that increase as a consequence of beetle kill. [more…]