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article imageCanada's forests are a major contributor to global warming, blame the beetles

By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     May 2, 2008 in Environment
The large pine forests in Western Canada are suffering from a gigantic beetle plague. As a result, they do not fix carbon but actually lose about 270 million tons of carbon.
Large parts of the forests are not green, but yellow. We can thank billions of Dendroctonus ponderosae, the pine tree beetle, for that. The name says it all. Dendroctonus stands for "tree-killer" and ponderosae means "pine tree". So, this should be a pine tree killing beetle. And it is.
The yellow of the trees is nothing else than an indication that the tree is dying. And the trees are dying off with great enthusiasm. The little critters accomplish this by living under the bark of the trees, something the trees can't handle.
These beetles are nothing abnormal, they are a normal part of life in those forests. Better, occasional large plagues are also part of normal life. However, according to Werner Kurz and his colleagues in Nature, the current plague is at least 10 times worse than normal and they blame, what else, global warming.
The problem is that the release of carbon from are generally ignored in large climate models. No longer. Kurz and colleagues have calculated that the plague causes approximately a net amount of 36 grammes of carbon to be released per square metre per year. Since the forested area is approximately 374,000 square kilometres or more than 11 times the size of The Netherlands, that amounts to an accumulated total of about 270 million tons of carbon over the period from 2000 until 2020. That just happens to be the amount carbon that Canada should reduce from current levels. Already hard to achieve without little beetles (they are no more than 5mm long), but essentially impossible with them.
More about Dendroctonus ponderosae, Mountain pine beetle, Western canada
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