Warming may quickly drive forest-eating beetles north, says study

  • Pines in Canada and much of US at risk

August 28, 2017 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University  read full ScienceDaily article here

Over the next few decades, global warming-related rises in winter temperatures could significantly extend the range of the southern pine beetle — one of the world’s most aggressive tree-killing insects — through much of the northern United States and southern Canada, says a new study. The beetle’s range is sharply limited by annual extreme temperature lows, but these lows are rising much faster than average temperatures — a trend that will probably drive the beetles’ spread, say the authors. The study was published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

…Until recently, southern pine beetles lived from Central America up into the southeastern United States, but in the past decade or so they have also begun appearing in parts of the Northeast and New England…

…”We could see loss of biodiversity and iconic regional forests. There would be damage to tourism and forestry industries in already struggling rural areas.” Coauthor Radley Horton, a researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said infested forests could also dry out and burn, endangering property and emitting large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere

Corey Lesk, Ethan Coffel, Anthony W. D’Amato, Kevin Dodds, Radley Horton. Threats to North American forests from southern pine beetle with warming winters. Nature Climate Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3375