Beetle population out of balance

I have traveled through western Canada several times by car and by train, and I have seen firsthand the devastating effects on forests there wrought by the beetles reported in the Nov. 27 AFP-JIJI article “Pine beetles swarm to west Canada.”

Entire mountainsides that habitually are covered with green forests are an ugly brown mat of dead timber. All that dead wood raises the already-high risks of summer forest fires, but I haven’t understood yet if the timber is still usable as commercial lumber.

It is not correct, though, to frame the beetle scourge as “an army of rice-size beetles, attracted by warming weather.” The beetles are not an alien species “swarming” to western North America. They have always been a natural part of that ecosystem. They have always infested the forests — if, by “infested,” you mean that they naturally reside there.

The problem today is that warming wintertime temperatures have removed a controlling effect on the beetle population that had been exerted by the previously colder weather.

In years past, the colder winter weather killed many of the beetle larvae hibernating under the bark of trees and maintained a balance. Now, with climate change, that control is removed, things are out of balance, and all hell is breaking loose on the slopes, in the valleys and in the communities whose economic lives depend on the large forestry sector.

grant piper
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.