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Destructive insects on rise in Alaska:

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.

Comments

  1. #1 SkookumPlanet
    September 12, 2006

    I lived in Alaska in the late 70′s. Specifically on Kachemak Bay, the most beautiful and spectacular landscape I’ve ever seen — mountains, rainforest, islands, fjords, glaciers, and 10,000-feet-high, active volcanoes on the shores of ocean teeming with life, from copeopods to belugas, furred, feathered, and finned.

    From your link, “Since 1980, aerial surveys indicate spruce bark beetles have killed mature white spruce trees on 4.4 million acres, including more than a million acres of the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage in an outbreak that took off after 1988.” Kachemak Bay is in the southwest corner of the Kenai Peninsula.

    I was last up there for two months in summer of ’95. I described the mountainsides of spruce-bark damage on an Alaskan scientist’s blog, Life Is A Bowl. [Thanks to Kevin Varnes for the tip].

    Also the spruce have all been killed, spruce bark beetle, probably secondary to global warming. I saw this in 95, but the trees and needles where still there. From a distance it was dark maroon and not necessarily dead, or even diseased, in appearance. It will become a giant ghost forest, like the small debarked, bleached groves scattered around the Kenai coast, killed by 64-quake-caused saltwater infiltration. A ghost forest so large will itself be striking.

    More on Kachemak Bay from me is at Life Is A Bowl.

    Alaska is an extremely conservative/libertarian state.

    “There is no such thing as an environmentalist in Alaska; there are only extreme environmentalists. And they want to take jobs. That’s the political syllogism we’ve gotten into,” Berkowitz [Democratic minority leader of the Alaska House]
    says. “If the environmentalists are for it, there’s a knee-jerk response against it.”

    But over the last few years, as deteriorating winters and warmer summers have become pronounced, I have detected the first stirrings of a psychological shift. You used to hear jokes about a group called Alaskans for Global Warming; after a long winter, it’s hard to campaign against warm spring days. But now that joke falls flat — I saw it happen among a group of businesspeople chatting about the weather before a breakfast meeting. No one laughed. Faces darkened.

    From Alaska’s Meltdown by Charles Wohlforth at the NRDC’s OnEarth Magazine [http://www[dot]nrdc[dot]org/onearth/05sum/alaska1[dot]asp].

    Wohlforth, a lifelong Alaskan, is the author of The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change which won an LA Times Book Award in “Science and Technology”. I haven’t read Wohlforth’s book yet. I’m interested, but afraid I’ll find it demoralizing.

    As I said on “Bowl”, Kachemak Bay will always be beautiful, but….

    A few years ago the SF Chronicle ran a feature about tourists flocking to see Alaska before global warming changes it. Those that think just getting people to accept anthropogenic global warming is the key hurdle, I’m afraid, don’t realize what lies ahead.

  2. #2 coturnix
    September 12, 2006

    Thank you so much for all this information.