Destructive insects in unprecedented numbers are finding Alaska forests to be a congenial home, said University of Alaska forestry professor Glenn Juday, and climate change could be the welcome mat.
Warmer winters kill fewer insects. Longer, warmer summers let insects complete a life cycle and reproduce in one year instead of two, the forest ecologist said.
Warm winters also can damage trees and make them less able to fend off insect attacks by changing the nature of snow. Instead of light, fluffy snow formed at extreme cold temperatures, warm winters produce wet, heavy snow more likely to break the tops of spruce trees, Juday said.