He treats the forest, ignores the young and attacks the old. The killer is tiny compared to his prey. It moves quickly and is not satisfied until the ruin is finished. As the victim tries to drive away the intruder, a life or death struggle begins. Ultimately, the attacker wins.
Who is this enemy? The attacker is the mountain pine beetle, which is native to western North America. Its prey is the majestic lodgepole pine, which is common in the countryside of British Columbia, Canada.
Approximately 35% of the province's forest area is made up of lodgepole pines - fertile soil for the mountain pine beetle, measuring only one eighth to five tenths of a sixteenth of an inch (3-8 mm). Initially, it targets unsanitary and very mature pine stands. However, as the beetle population increases, the attack spreads to healthy old trees. (See the "Mountain Pine Beetle Life Cycle" sidebar.) Recent outbreaks in British Columbia have killed 30 million pine trees in just one year. It is estimated that sufficient numbers of beetles can emerge from one infested tree to kill two trees of equal size the following year.
The mountain beetle is a natural part of the ecosystem. In addition to forest fires, beetles are used to recycle pine forests once they are mature. However, human intervention through fire detection and suppression has contributed to preserving large areas of mature and very mature wood. While this has protected habitats and migration corridors of wild animals and forests that are used for recreational and industrial purposes, it has also created the need to manage the mountain beetle. However, how are these tiny pests found and tracked in large wilderness areas? What, if anything, can be done to stem the tide of devastation it has left?
Detection and tracking
Mountain beetle management begins with detection. An aerial view of the vast forest is done in search of trees that have turned red above. These trees indicate an infestation and are easy to spot in the middle of a green blanket. The location of an infestation and the number of red trees are determined using a global positioning system (GPS). The data is recorded and carefully stored on a laptop. It is then downloaded to desktop computers and overlaid on detailed forest cover maps using powerful geographic information systems. Each infestation is then given a number and a list is created showing the coordinates of each area. This is vital for the soil survey team that is dispatched to check the level of infestation.
However, the real threat to the forest is not the red trees, but the green trees currently under attack. They are usually characterized by a tar pipe surrounding the hole the beetles entered and pieces of sawdust or sawdust at the base of the tree. All infected trees are marked with plastic tape and numbered in ink. The characteristics of the site and the number of trees attacked are recorded along with any other information needed to help the relevant authorities decide what needs to be done to control the spread of the infestation.
When an infested area is large enough to warrant logging, another team will be sent to map the area. An exploration plan is submitted to the Ministry of Forestry for approval. The logging company is also responsible for reforesting the area and tending the seedlings until they can grow on their own. This process not only enables trees to be used, but also serves to control the spread of infestation and create new shoots.
However, if registration is not possible, treatment in a single tree can be recommended. This may include injecting pesticides into the infested tree or cutting and burning the area. This last method of control, practiced in late winter or early spring before bugs appear, is very effective, but it also requires a lot of work. Dale, an expert in identifying and controlling this infestation, described Awake! the routine of a typical work day.
“The first step is maneuvering on single-lane roads, which are also used by huge wooden trucks that carry heavy loads. For safety reasons, we use a radio to monitor activity on the streets. At the end of the road we unload our snowmobiles and sleds and dive into the forest. Our GPS and compass are carefully packed, along with chainsaws, gasoline, oil, axes, radios, snowshoes and first aid items. We cross several kilometers of swamps, forest areas and old paths in the bush. When our snowmobiles stop driving, we put on snowshoes with which we can walk in some places with difficulty in snow of up to 120 cm.
“The unsafe terrain makes it difficult to transport 15 kg of equipment. Our hearts beat with exertion. How happy we are to find the site! But now the real work begins. A trained and skilled worker cuts infested trees with sniper accuracy. The team then stepped forward and cut the trees into manageable pieces to burn. The bark must be completely burned to eradicate the larvae. When you stop for lunch, the -20 ° C [minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit] temperature lets us estimate our fire. We warm up with its heat and thaw our frozen sandwiches. So it's time to get back to work. However, very early on, the winter sky begins to darken, reminding us that it is time to go home. ""
Work in nature
The activities of the forest workers are demanding. When these skilled people face the challenges, they also manage to create around them. This includes incredible landscapes and unforgettable wildlife encounters. Some encounters are harmless, such as when a capercaillie flies high out of the snow almost underfoot, or an unfortunate squirrel runs out of its den to pull on a worker's pant leg, causing considerable fear. Other encounters can be fatal, however - one can be chased by a resident brown or black bear. In general, however, awareness and training can minimize hazards, and workers can enjoy the wilderness without undue fear.
Exciting advances are being made in using technology to manage the planet's precious resources. There are many conscientious people who work to protect and preserve our precious trees and manage things like the mountain beetle. There is no doubt that there is much more to learn about our beautiful forests. We strive for the moment when we can serve you in complete harmony with your original project.