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Number 38 - 2007

Thinking strategically to outsmart the mountain pine beetle

By Jacques Régnière

The mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) has been wreaking havoc in the forests of British Columbia since the mid-1990s. Millions of hectares of pine forests have come under attack in that province and the outbreak is now spreading into Alberta. Does this insect pose a serious threat to the forests of eastern Canada?

The mountain pine beetle is a species native to British Columbia's pine forests. Normally, these beetles play an important role in forest dynamics by attacking old or weakened trees, and thus helping to speed the process of stand regeneration. Severe winter cold and forest fires help keep their populations in check. However, a combination of factors, including a series of mild winters, successful fire suppression and extensive areas of mature lodgepole pine forest, have created conditions conducive to the explosive growth of mountain pine beetle populations, resulting in a large-scale outbreak.

Although it is unlikely, there is still a risk that the mountain pine beetle will continue its eastward advance and attack vast stands of jack pine. A strategy has been developed to slow the spread of the mountain pine beetle, reduce the size of infestations, and minimize the associated economic losses.

Based on prevention, early detection and rapid cont.....

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