I Speak for the Trees

by JDAC Mountie on October 31, 2015 - 12:14am

          Everyone loves a good walk through the woods. For the people in B.C. and Alberta, however, it's becoming a little less Into The Woods and a little more the ending of The Lorax. All because of one little bug, as described in the article The Bug That’s Eating the Woods.

          The Mountain pine beetle loves lodgepole pines; some might say they love them to death. Due in part to warming climatic variations and in larger part attempted human control of the environment, pine beetles have been experiencing a population boom that every mature pine in North America has felt. In the last fifteen years alone, over forty-four million acres of pine forests have felt the runaway train effects of the pine beetle spread. In Canada, the beetle has skipped from B.C. to Alberta and Saskatchewan and the fear is that the next jump will be to the Boreal forest and any thought of containment will be out the window.

          The two main reasons that the pine beetle is in an unprecedented time of growth are both due to human factors. First, increasing global greenhouse gas emissions have created a slightly warmer environment for the beetle. Gone are the harsh winters that kept the beetles’ population in check and a longer summer grants more time for the beetles to spread between stressed trees.

           Alberta's Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Recourse Development has cut down over one million trees in the last ten years in an attempt to control the disaster. This type of reactive management has been seen before. In the 1950s, American Elm were all but wiped out in the Eastern U.S. in an attempt to control the spread of Dutch Elm Disease. This practice was a failure, as it resulted in wiping out all the Elms that had immunity to the disease (Hunt 2010). The species is still struggling to bounce back today. The American Elm should serve as an omen to the Albertan government. The mass extermination of tree stands that are infected with the pine beetle also eliminates the pines that are resistant to the invaders.

          Canada’s aggressive stance on forest fire management is the other reason pine beetles are in their prime. Forest fires are not always a bad thing: they renew ecosystems and keep the balance of biodiversity in check. In some countries, fires are used effectively in agriculture to add soil nutrients. Here, they represent a threat to one of our biggest resources. The economic strain from the hurting forestry towns is felt more and more. Canada has a staples economy, heavily reliant on its natural resources, including forestry. It is this importance on logging that has mostly led to the huge annual budget for fighting and controlling forest fires in the West. This type of command and control management has led to a false sense of security by the forestry industry. Fewer forest fires increased logging exports, to the satisfaction of the provincial governments, but the unforeseen result of the less frequent fires was the proliferation of mature pine trees: the very definition of a pine beetle’s nirvana. One hundred years ago only 17% of pines in B.C. were considered ripe for beetles. That number soared to over 50% in the 1990s and has continued to grow. Now forests are being decimated and the logging community is shouldering the brunt of the effects.

          The government faces a choice when it comes to pine beetle management. Any economy that is so heavily reliant on natural resources threatens to fall in the staples trap, an economic-type Armageddon resulting from a complete financial dependency on natural resources by a country. If Canada wishes to avoid this, a shift away from our forestry industry is needed. Let forest fires that do not threaten the public run their course, do away with monoculture and bring back the varied forest ecosystems that are more resilient to pine beetles.

          Something has to change, so that people can grab their thneed and head outdoors to enjoy Canada’s forests for a long time to come.  

 

Image from Google

Rosner, Hillary. "The Bug That’s Eating the Woods." National Geographic, April, 2015, 96-115. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/pine-beetles/rosner-text

Hunt, Lori. "Bring Back the American Elms." The Portico, 2010. http://www.uoguelph.ca/theportico/elms/

Comments

Hey JDAC,

First off, I’d like the say that your title did a great job luring me in, as this was the first post I decided to reply to. You tied in a movie that people can relate to and applied it to your article, nice work. You also brought up a very good example of how the government has previously wiped out the American elm in an attempt to control the spread of disease. I think this is a great example of command and control, as the government is trying to turn a conflicting system into a more simplified system that has more predictability. I think in more recent scenarios, the government should step back and let Mother Nature take over.

You also did a great job relating your article to concepts we have learnt in class. The fact that Canada does have a staples economy makes this case even more important. We as a country are heavily reliant on our exports to fuel our economy. This increases the severity of this threat and forces political figures to act.

Great post overall,

Fraser

This post was very well written; the first sentence of this post grabbed my interest and the enthusiastic tone throughout kept me interested. My overall thought is that I find it ironic that fire management, which is intended to sustain forests and their role in the Canadian economy, is what sometimes makes them susceptible to degradation. This uncertainty makes for quite the struggle in an economy that is so reliant on its natural resources. The invasion of various beetles etc. to monoculture forests is a result of attempting command and control type management, but ultimately failing. To fix this, I agree with the suggestion of shifting away from monoculture forests and allowing diverse, more resilient forest ecosystems to return. Although, this will of course take time. The beetle problem, like many uncertain problems in natural resource management, require decisions to be made in the meantime otherwise the problem will just get worse. I think continued research and applying adaptive management practices, which aim to learn more about these trees and the beetles, could help to find a way to get rid of the beetles or infested trees, without harmed healthy trees in the process.

Hi there,

This blog post was very well written. I was drawn in and entertained, I really enjoyed the visual and relation to the movie the lorax it was very cute. The content of your blog was effective and informative. I think that you touched on many aspects of the forest loss and the contributing factors while still relating well and using information from your article. Excellent work. I think that talking about the governments role and the ministries current and history with managing issues like this relates very well to what we discuss in class. If I were to change something or suggest you make an edit to your blog it would be to explain the concept that you are relating your discussion to. For example, you talk about command and control but someone reading this who is not in the GEOG 3210 class may not know what this means.

Overall excellent blog and super interesting article!

Greta post! I think relating this issue with something like a movie people can reference is a great idea. I believe that your arguments and ideas for this issue over the Pine Beetle are very strong. You seemed to have really educated yourself on this issue and sound knowledgable and able to back your statements. I am question the idea of cutting down thousands of trees to save more trees, but I also am not familiar with how successful this technique is. I believe practicing less monoculture and bring in more biodiversity will help this issue and reduce the impact of the beetle. Overall, great post but I also agree with the comment above that you should expand on the ideas that people not in GEOG 3210 might not understand such as command and control.

The title drew me in. My thought process went like this “Oh that sounds familiar, let’s read it…(reads first paragraph) OMG YES The Lorax!” I love the fact that you brought me back to my childhood to create an awareness of this issue. Creating a personal link many can relate to bring the viewer closer to the topic. This got me hooked. I also like that you touched on an example of a similar occurrence in history. You would think we (Canada) would look into something like this and learn from the mistakes of the past.
Something to consider is that the Canadian economy is on the rise, as logging industries are increasing production which help reduce and control the amount of mountain pine beetles. Removing trees at a certain time will prevent the beetle from expanding their territory. If the beetles aren’t controlled, in the long run they will spread throughout the boreal forest; the logging industries, the economy, and all of Canada will have an even bigger problem and downfall.

Hello!

Your post is quite thorough and fun to read. I enjoyed how you mentioned the staples trap that most economies, including Canada fall into. The Lorax would be quite disappointed with how our state is managing our forests and the Giving Tree would be silent as it would not be able to speak for itself. Unfortunately, economic growth is made an utmost priority nowadays while the environment continues to be degraded. Perhaps with adaptive management strategies in play, invasive species such as the Mountain Pine Beetle will be contained. What other sorts of management strategies do you think will prevent or mitigate our government away from falling into the staple trap?

I really enjoyed your post, and it is definitely an important topic to focus on. One big problem I can see when it comes to managing this sort of environmental problem is the uncertainty factor. Trying to not only manage, but properly manage invasive species is near impossible when you are unable to completely understand the problem at hand. No matter how much research you do on an environmental system you are never able to fully understand it. You can take a reductionist approach and try to understand all the components of the system individually and miss out on the big picture and the connections that happen between those parts or you can take a holistic approach and try to understand the big picture but you will miss all the details that really make the system function as it does. There is so much more to this problem then the pine trees, the beetles and the climate. These just happen to be the factors that we have been able to identify. The other problem is that environmental systems are dynamic on both a spatial and temporal scale so management practices that work in one location at a specific point in time are not guaranteed to work elsewhere or at another point in time.

Hi JDAC,
I found your article very interesting because I am used to be living close to a forest. I like to be in contact with the trees and I think that Canada’s forests are part of our country’s identity and have to be preserved. Therefore, I totally agree with you that major changes have to occur in the field of forestry. The issue you presented about the beetles surely has environmental impacts, but it also threatened the jobs of many foresters. For example, in Quesnel, a city of British Columbia, a third of the workers rely on forestry to live (Narayanan, 76, 2007). As you mentioned, to try to solve the beetles’ problem, they started cutting the trees more intensively. However, they are aware of the imminent crash of their industry. For this reason, they try to vary their economy. From this, it is possible to see how the problem can affect many spheres of the society and the environment. Environmental changes have to occur, keeping in mind that there is also going to be a large population of foresters affected.
Narayanan, A. (January/February 2007). Life After the Beetle. Canadian Geographic. Retrieved from http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/wildlife-nature/articles/pdfs/mountain-...