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Planet Ark World Environment News Western Canadian Pine Beetle Infestation Spreads

Date: 19-Sep-07
Country: CANADA

The pine beetle infestation has spread unabated for eight
years and unless weather conditions change to keep the tiny
bugs in check, the amount of trees killed by 2015 in Canada's
largest lumber exporting province will likely reach about 1
billion cubic metres (35.3 billion cubic feet), according to a
provincial analysis.

The report estimated that at least 530 million cubic metres
of wood has already been killed, which is about 12 percent of
the western province's total supply of salable pine -- a key
softwood construction lumber.

But the report by British Columbia's Ministry of Forests
said the number of trees killed annually appears to be
declining as susceptible trees die off, and the infestation
rate may return to pre-outbreak levels by 2015.

The insects have lived on lodgepole and ponderosa pine in
Western Canada for thousands of years, but nature has
controlled
major outbreaks by killing the beetles through extreme winter
cold or with forest fires.

The area has not had the required cold snap in recent
years, and efforts to fight fires to protect the timber supply
and area communities have increased the number of older trees,
which are more susceptible to an insect attack.

Trees killed by the beetles can be harvested for several
years after they have died, but the provincial researchers said
that more needs to be known about how long that wait can be.

The report said that, based on current assumptions on
sawlog shelf-life, some areas of the province now hit by the
infestation could see a decline in timber supply within four or
five years.

The drier dead trees are subject to more cracking, which
reduces the amount of timber and plywood that can be produced
from each log.

The beetle infestation has continued to move eastward
toward Alberta. Provincial officials there plan a major forest
burn-off this fall in areas near the border in hopes of
stopping the insects from crossing the continental divide.

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