Adult Mountain Pine Beetles (MPBs) are known to bore into trees that are suitable for laying eggs in the tree’s bark. Mature lodgepole pines (Pinus contorta Douglas var. latifolia Engelmann) from 80 to 120 years old are only some of the many trees infested and damaged by MPBs. Pine beetle problems such as tree infestation and damage occur when MPBs begin to settle in a tree and lay its eggs of 60 to 80.
Canadian forests have experienced MPB infestation since previous years, with the area of British Columbia currently suffering from the largest pest outbreak in the history of Canada with over 7 million hectares infested in 2004. The region of Alberta has previously experienced two pest outbreaks: from 1940 to 1943 and from 1977 to 1985. However, there is an imminent threat of another MPB outbreak. Research identifies the threat as caused by the overwhelming abundance of susceptible pine forests located at the eastern slope of the Rockies. The MPB outbreak threat is also believed to expand from the pine forests to the boreal forests east of the Rocky Mountains.
For this reason, Alberta is seeking measures to prevent another MPB outbreak from occurring. The primary goal is to reduce the number of susceptible pine trees from the infestation of pine beetles before the MPBs reach the region for the third time. An objective taken in Alberta so far is early identification of susceptible pine trees in order to control and preempt the event where there is already infestation. Some of the areas aimed at preempting an MPB outbreak include the national parks situated between Alberta and British Columbia, as well as public, private and municipal lands in Alberta.
One of the measures taken is the removal of the susceptible prime brood producing stands. This step is designed to mitigate the probability of the growth of the MPB population. Once this step is already established, the growth of the MPB population is expected to slow down after which a direct control efforts on the MPB infestation will be applied.
Estimates from aerial and ground surveys since August 2006 indicate a total of 2.8 million trees infested by the pine beetle. There are current efforts in Alberta in resolving the probable outbreak such as the efforts taken by the Alberta Sustainable Resource Development which detected and treated over a thousand infested trees, 98% of which were treated in 2002 to 2003. Economic estimates reveal that the impact of an MPB outbreak will greatly affect the wood and furniture industry.
Possible solutions roughly include, but is not limited to, MPB mitigation efforts which are strategically planned and well-coordinated among land managers such as Parks Canada, First Nations, Alberta Community Development, the forest industry as well as the municipalities. In the event where there is already a rampant MPB outbreak, a salvage strategy will be applied by recovering dead and dying trees before the fiber is lost in order to obtain the pine trees which may still be of good use.
The operation will be spearheaded by the government of Alberta in cooperation with the existing public and private organizations and concerned individuals through coordinated efforts. Constant monitoring and studies taken by the government teams for mitigating the probable and eventual MPB infestation will be applied alongside with the incorporation of efforts from private entities.
Mountain Pine Beetles in Your Backyard? from http://www.srd.gov.ab.ca/forests/health/mpb.html
Ono, H. (2003). The Mountain Pine Beetle: Scope of the Problem and Key Issues in Alberta. Paper presented at the Mountain Pine Beetle Symposium: Challenges and Solutions.