Heating Up the Fight Against the Mountain Pine Beetle
For weeks on end, winter temperatures in Canada’s boreal forest can stay below -40 degrees. Traditionally, the freezing temperatures that are miserably uncomfortable for people have also proven to be deadly to one of the forest’s most deadly threats: the mountain pine beetle.
However, as the world’s climate changes, winters in the boreal forest have been getting warmer and dryer, promoting the survival and eastward spread of the beetle.
If the mountain pine beetle continues to kill pine trees in its move eastward across Canada’s boreal forest, its spread will have serious ecological, social and cultural consequences.
The boreal forest has been noted as a critical part of Earth’s life support system. Covering about 1.4 billion acres of intact forest and wetlands, the forest stores about 186 billion tonnes of carbon taken from the air. Losing the boreal forest would significantly affect the amount of greenhouse gasses in the air, and could lead to greater global warming.
As Canada Research Chair in Forest Entomology, Dr. Nadir Erbilgin is closely examining the relationship between the mountain pine beetle and the jack pines of the boreal forest. He will evaluate how the jack pine helps the beetle develop and survive, and will look at other pests that affect the jack pine (such as the jack pine budworm), as well as at fungi that help the mountain pine beetle survive.
Erbilgin’s research will be crucial for predicting the short- and long-term impact of the mountain pine beetle on the Canadian boreal forest. His work will also contribute to the knowledge needed to sustainably manage forested lands against devastating insect epidemics such as the mountain pine beetle.