<CBS4) – It’s been a tough sight for many to see — spruce fir forests dying off because of the Spruce Beetle. Now a new report by Colorado State University says above-average temperatures could make the infestation worse, and you can expect the mountains to look much different in just a few decades.
Seth Davis, an assistant professor at CSU School of Forest & Rangeland Stewardship, made the discovery accidentally. Davis was studying when and where spruce beetles migrate, but he and another researcher noticed the populations were growing rapidly. The team collected 70,000 spruce beetles altogether over two years. They released a report earlier this summer that revealed if climate change continues there will be more spruce beetle outbreaks in forests across the Rockies.
“Typically the beetle flight occurs in a relatively small time period, the entire thing is done in 4 to 6 weeks. As the temperatures get warmer and warmer that flight period becomes longer and longer meaning that it’s more time that beetles can infest trees,” Davis said.
Currently, the spruce beetle has already affected about 40% of spruce firs in Colorado. While, tree die-off is part of a natural occurrence, Davis says it remains to be seen if it should happen on such a large scale or as often as researchers are seeing now. And he says what should be done about the die-off is a million-dollar question that will also require more research.