Study: Warm winters could aid spread of bark beetles

This article discusses how bark beetles will likely destroy many or most pinion trees in Nevada.

It’s been more than a decade since a bark beetle epidemic wiped out swaths of piñon trees around Santa Fe, but a growing body of research predicts that warming winters could spell trouble for beetle-prone conifers in the area — and beyond.

A new study by Los Alamos National Laboratory is the first large-scale analysis to demonstrate that higher temperatures allow the destructive beetle to multiply rapidly and expand its range.

The study also found that the pest’s population growth is limited by competition for food. In other words, there’s only so much sustenance in each tree.

“If these beetles are living better because they’re not dying due to cold, there are more of them around to compete with one another,” said Devin Goodsman, a postdoctoral researcher at the lab and the study’s lead author. “That can have a countering effect.”

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