Quirks and Quarks

The Destructive Pine Beetle Poses A New Threat

A fungus associated with the Pine Beetle changes soil composition and prevents new seedlings from thriving

The beetle's impact reaches beyond killing mature trees.

Pine-beetle damage forest near Mt. Fraser in British Columbia (Themightyquill, copyright cc-by-sa-3.0)
The pine forests of North America have been under attack from the mountain pine beetle for well over a decade. The population of the destructive beetle first exploded in British Columbia in the early 2000's, then quickly spread into Alberta.

But new research by Dr. Justine Karst, an Assistant Professor of Restoration Ecology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, has found the pine beetle poses a threat beyond the destruction of mature trees.

As the trees die, the fungal composition of the soil changes. As a result, a different type of fungi takes hold, which is not conducive to the growth of new seedlings and puts second generation pine trees at risk. 

Related Links

Paper in New Phytologist
- University of Alberta release
- Radio Canada International interview
Edmonton Sun story