Colorado conifers have undergone major bark beetle infestation since 1996. Forests show ugly patches where the needles are diseased and red rather than healthy and green. Biologists claim some types of bark beetles are increasing because more can survive warmer winters. Due to climate warming, their range expands into higher altitudes and more northerly latitudes.
If you spend some time in the mountains, you can’t help noticing the degree to which spruce and pine trees are dying off. But you may not know that aspen are suffering, too. An article by Michelle Nijhuis in the December 2008 issue of Smithsonian, addresses the issue.
Foresters began observing aspen die-off in western Colorado in 2004. Although aspen bark beetles, borers, fungi, and diseases have all attacked the aspen, the underlying causes of aspen decline are high temperatures and draught, which stress the trees allowing them to fall victim to secondary causes.
It’s said that you can’t control the weather, but apparently people can, and have, influenced the climate. Global warming has begun, but perhaps it’s not too late to slow its progress. If we don’t, those beautiful mountain vistas may not be.