Pine Trees, Banff National Park, Canada
In recent years the Mountain Pine Beetle in Canada has infected an area four times the size of the Netherlands. The small, seemingly harmless beetle can infect and kill an adult pine tree in as little as three weeks. It has killed swathes of trees in British Columbia, turning the once green Lodgepole Pine forest into a burning red.
It is about to get much worse. As the beetle moves East, over the Rocky Mountains and into Alberta, it will likely infect the Jackpine boreat forest, a huge expanse of forest that stretches across Canada from West to East. Climate change has been largely responsible for the pine beetle outbreak. Extended cold winters previously kept the
beetle population in check, but with their disappearance, the beetle population has exploded.
Naturally the pine beetle infestation has social and economic impacts. Recent estimates predict over half of the forestry jobs in British Columbia will disappear by 2014. However, there is a larger problem associated with the pine beetle infestation. As the trees are killed one by one, the boreal forest, a key global carbon sink, is turning into a carbon emitter. This feedback loop is only going to further exacerbate the climate change that we have started.