The larger threat lies on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, where the beetle has begun to infest the Jack Pine that mix with fir and spruce to form the diverse ecology of the Boreal Forest.
The beetles have begun to make their home in what scientists call 'naïve', or unadapted species of pines, said Lindgren. Having co-existed with MPB for millennia, lodgepole pines have multiple lines of defense they can use to fight back against the insect, such as sap secretions and toxins. In regions where MPB have not historically appeared due to temperature constraints, new research has found that trees are less able to repel the invaders, he said.
"We've seen quite a bit of evidence that beetles do better in [naïve] trees," he said. "The brood is more likely to survive," meaning more beetles emerge in the spring to attack other trees.
Other research has indicated that beetles born out of naive trees tend to be larger and healthier, meaning they are capable of laying larger broods. Scientists worry that these reproductive advantages may negate some of the disadvantages of a more limited food supply to the East.
In that scenario, while pine beetles may not explode through the boreal forest with the same speed that they moved through British Columbia, it is still possible that they could make their way through more gradually, using intermittent patches of Jack Pine as a ladder, Carroll said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500