Boreal forests from Yukon to Labrador could become infested with the tiny beetle responsible for killing a large chunk of British Columbia's pine trees,a scientist says.
The mountain pine beetle, which has already chewed its way throughthe majorityof B.C.'s lodgepole pines, hasmoved into Alberta.
Now, researchers believe the infestation could spread into jack pine in boreal forests from the Yukon to Labrador.
Dr. Bill Wilson of the Canadian Forest Service in Victoria leads a team of researchers battling the mountain pine beetle.
"The scientists say the bugs are not stoppable in B.C.", says Wilson. "It's definitely a challenge and a risk for the boreal."
The mountain pine beetle used to be exterminated by cold winter weather. But as parts of the North warm up, scientists say, the beetles can breed successfully in the jack pine, albeit at a slower pace.
Wilson has hope Alberta may yet be able to hold the line by using aggressive measures.
"They have zero tolerance, similar to their control ethos around rats," he said.
"If rats are ever located in Alberta, they send out the rat patrol and they exterminate them. They do not tolerate rats. They've got the same philosophy around mountain pine beetle."
While Wilson says his warnings are a worst-case scenario, he points out the beetles were able to kill most of B.C.'s lodgepole pine trees in five years.
"The rest of Canada certainly does need to take action to constrain the potential for the beetle in the boreal," said Wilson.