By Anupum Pant
If you take a helicopter ride over a pine forest in a region spanning the Rocky Mountains toward Canada’s Boreal Forest, you’d probably see thousands of fallen trees and several other trees turning brown. There’s an epidemic that has been the woe of these forests. A tiny creature, that’s destroying millions of acres of pine forests and is disrupting the carbon balance of massive regions. The mountain pine beetle is the tiny creature I’m talking about.
A mountain pine beetle is a tiny dark insect sporting a hard exoskeleton and is the size of a rice grain approximately. And yet, its size doesn’t limit it in the amount of destruction it causes. It’s like a cancer. The beetle infestation on a pine tree spreads like a wild fire. Once spread, the only thing that can be done is to cut the trees and burn them to stop the infestation from spreading.
In a very simple manner, these beetles feed on the phloem tissue and kill the tree by girdling it – a very effective way of killing a huge tree with a few small cuts. Or they introduce fungi into the bark,