Forest Service tests new beetle-slowing technique
A U.S. Forest Service test showed promise to slow devastating pine beetles from spreading.
The study, conducted in California and Idaho, used flakes containing verbenone ” a chemical found in herbal teas ” dispersed over a forest by aircraft to slow the beetles responsible for killing trees by three-fold, according to a release from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research station.
Scott Conway, vegetation management officer for Tahoe National Forest, said the new technique may be too much for the small beetle attacks in the Truckee area now, but is good to have in case things turn worse locally in the future.
“The outbreaks we have in Alder Creek are such small potatoes compared to other areas that it’s probably not something we would institute here,” Conway said.
The pine beetles in the Truckee-Tahoe area attack Lodgepole pines, which only grow in small pockets locally, which make more sense to be manually thinned, Conway said.
But if another beetle outbreak occurs, targeting the much more common Ponderosa and Jeffrey pines, then the aerial application could become crucial, he said.
“Studies like this one may provide us some tools if a severe brevicomus (bark beetle) outbreak does occur … but good forest management (thinning in order to free up available resources for the remaining dominant trees) will, of course, help deter a potential outbreak as well,” Conway wrote in an e-mail.
The largest beetle outbreak in North American history is now occurring in Canada, where more than 22 million acres are affected, according to the British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range. It is also commonly found in the White River National Forest in Colorado, where Forest Service officials expect it to kill 90 percent of the trees.
Outbreaks of this magnitude exacerbate global warming by converting forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources, according to the press release.
The dead trees left behind by the bark beetles are more susceptible to wildfire as well.
The press release said the verbenone flake treatment offers a more environmentally-friendly alternative to pesticides, as only about 9.7 flakes per square meter were used to treat the forest in the test, according to the release.
The study, “Aerially Applied Verbenone-Releasing Laminated Flakes Protect Pinus Contorta Stands From Attack by Dendroctonus Ponderosae in California and Idaho,” is available for viewing at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2008.12.017
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