Life as a mountain pine beetle couldn’t be better these days. Millions of acres of lodgepole and jack pines, all waiting to provide the perfect get-away for your procreational activities. Nothing and no one to stop you, because humans are afraid that if they spray you with poison, they’ll kill beneficial insects as well. Though your boreal boudoir does its best to fight back, with flows of pitch intended to block you and kill your larvae, your uncanny ability to deposit pitch-stopping fungus – which also halts the paltry pine’s supply of water and nutrients – generally means just one thing. Another dead pine tree.
Little bug, big problems
In the United States, 8.8 million acres of western forests have thus far succumbed to this onslaught. In western Canada, more than 43 million acres have been damaged or killed.
Dead trees are only the beginning, however, because dead trees make perfect fire fodder. As a result, more and more forests burn every year. In fact, the forested areas of Canada that catch fire have doubled since the 1970s . In Australia, bush fires caused by dead trees can result in huge amounts of damage, as well a number of fatalities. For this reason, many people decide that tree lopping maintenance is the best method of preventing trees from catching fire and causing drastic bushfires.
The effects of mountain pine beetle infestation, coupled with the impact of global warming, have led to vast areas of forest that suffer a double whammy of internal and external drought. Temperatures have increased in northern climes by two to three degrees over the last three decades*. Hearing this kind of statistic, it then comes as no surprise as to why many tree removal companies are eager to win removal contracts all over their service location. You’ll find many tree removal companies looking for tree service marketing not only to secure new residential jobs, but also to have their brand awareness increase enough to be considered for the various commercial and governmental contracts that could be available. According to recent research performed in the United States, dead lodgepole pines hold ten times less moisture than living trees. That’s not a small reduction – that’s huge.
The bad news doesn’t stop there.
Warmer air holds more moisture, providing the wherewithal for cloud formation, and the energy for more violent storms. Lightning has always been a primary culprit in the setting of forest fires. Tall, dead and denuded pine trees might as well be vertical matches, just waiting to be struck. Today, in Canada, that translates to two million burning hectares a year (a hectare equates to two-and-a-half acres). So, you may find tree maintenance becoming more pronounced around dry seasons, especially in places like Canada and the United States that experience these types of seasons. Luckily they have services similar to this tree service removal dallas company that can remove dead trees before they cause a fire.
Too hot to handle
During the second week of May this year, 1000 Canadian fire fighters waged war against 100 fires in the province of Alberta. Gas and oil drilling operations were shut down, with 2,000 workers evacuated from Fort McMurray and Peace River. In Slave Lake – north of Edmonton – 60 mph winds drove fires ahead of them at a clip too fast for firefighters to keep up with. One-third of the town was destroyed.
Len McCharles, deputy fire chief with the Calgary Fire Dept., was quoted as saying,
In all the years I’ve been doing this job, I haven’t seen anything with this kind of speed and devastation.
Is the United States inexplicably exempt from this reign of terror? Far from it.
Thirty billion trees have been killed, from Alaska to New Mexico. The resulting fires have changed firefighting protocols from North to South and back again, along with the communities that are threatened and their watersheds.
The lack of water out west has always been a problem. Growing populations and dry-as-tinder forests could well combine to become an insurmountable challenge. Even in Canada, with its widely-dispersed population, the outlook is grim. Mike Flannigan, a senior fire researcher with Natural Resources Canada, predicts that fire seasons will continue to lengthen, fires will burn hotter, and the adequacy of fire suppression techniques will be called into question.
Far and wide
In far-away Russia, catastrophic wildfires killed hundreds, and charred millions of hectares of fields and forests last summer. Australia’s decade-long drought culminated in out-of-control wildfires in 2009. Unbelievably, parts of Siberia are now considered at high risk of catching fire, as are areas of Alaska. Danny Harvey, a climate expert with the University of Toronto’s Department of Geography, reports that the number of large fires in the mainland United States has increased by more than a factor of six annually, beginning in 1990. Be sure to read that closely: a factor of six annually.
As in every year.
Is it possible to put a positive spin on any of this? Are there preventive measures we could employ in order to escape at least the worst of nature’s wrath? Could palliative steps – intended to maintain the status quo – be a starting place? Do such incremental measures even exist? Actually, there is one place where they’ve experimented with holding the line. The results are in, and might best be described as so far, so good. That place is Golden, Colorado.
As the interior design of the building began to take shape, a “golden” opportunity was identified and utilized: the availability of many thousands of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle. Use of the dead trees would prevent the harvesting of live, healthy trees, while removing fuel from the path of potential wildfires. Best of all, this was wood with a story to tell.
What designers found out was that when the beetle deposits the fungus that ultimately kills its host, it leaves behind a telltale blue stain. The stain is lovely, subtle, and modern looking. The NREL’s Research Support Facility needed 19,000 feet of wood paneling, all of which was derived from the dead pine trees in the area. As visitors tour the LEED Platinum Certified building, they’ll learn why it was important to use the blue-stained paneling. Once word gets out, the hope is that the paneling will become widely used.
Measure twice, cut once
Well, I’m no fire suppression expert, but it seems to me that if there is a market for wood products made from infested trees, it might be smart to think about which trees to cut, and why. If there is a sufficient market for ALL the dead trees, then all the trees would be cut. Even that would take time, though. In order to prevent the possibility of accidental fires burning up a valuable commodity, it seems like the safest approach might be to harvest trees in such a way that the cleared areas serve as fire breaks.
In fact, even without a market for the damaged wood, is it possible that pre-cut fire breaks would make sense? Given that we now know forest fires are increasing dramatically from year to year, surely active suppression/prevention, particularly in blighted sections of forest, would be worth careful consideration. Fires kill people, destroy property, and release carbon into the atmosphere.
Three good reasons to think in terms of suppression and prevention before next year’s fire season!
–Vicki Lipski, Transition Voice
*Later, in the same resource, the author refers to degrees Celsius, so I assume that’s what is meant here. I can only assume, because the author does not say.