Calgary

Pine beetle surveys west of Calgary cut down

There aren't as many mountain pine beetles in the forests west of Calgary this year, prompting officials to scale back on the effort to measure how many trees are affected.

There aren’t as many mountain pine beetles in the forests west of Calgary this year, prompting officials to scale back on the effort to measure how many trees are affected.

The last major infestation in the area was a decade ago.

For the first time since 2002, the province is cutting back on survey work, said Duncan MacDonnell, who speaks for Alberta Sustainable Development.

"To be scientifically valid, overwinter mortality survey work needs clumps of about 40 trees and we don't have beetle infested clumps of that number," he said. 

But a Calgary scientist says research shouldn't decrease just because the bug is harder to find.

"I think it would be a shame if we didn't kind of keep track of what's happening when the beetles start getting scarce," said University of Calgary ecologist Mary Reid, who has been studying the beetle for over a decade.

Whether the decline is due to climate, environment or forest management, it's an opportunity for continued research — but only if data is still gathered, Reid said.

"What do we know about what's happened? So here's our first chance," she said.

The province says it will still run other surveys, but with more of a focus on central Alberta, where a 2006 infestation affected thousands of trees.

In central Alberta last year, 135,000 trees had to be removed, while only 166 trees were cut down in the southwestern foothills, MacDonnell said.