Home Adaptation What's Bugging Our Forests?

What's Bugging Our Forests?


Yes, it's global warming again--but don't hit 'delete' quite yet

One of the many, MANY impacts that global warming is bringing to bear on us in the near term is that of providing more suitable habitat for insects. The most damaging possibility is that insects that thrive in forests expand their ranges, have less significant die-off in winter, and find no particular constraints that would prevent them from munching down entire forests. So they will.

We've explored impacts partially caused by insects before, although we may not have adequately made the connection between the bug and the disaster. Here are some examples:

So let's make sure at this point that the appropriate level of causation is laid right where it belongs: on the bugs. Here are some extremes:

  • This is probably the least likely way that insects will destroy our civilization.
  • This is a more likely way that insects will destroy our civilization.
  • And this is probably the most likely way that insects will cause extreme damage to our civilization.

This is what Bugs us

This little guy is the primary culprit, so far: The mountain pine beetle and its associated impacts. The impact of this beetle has been well documented. Media analysts, such as Timothy Egan, who has spent a career documenting our abuses of the environment and its impacts, such as the Dust Bowl, have only just now begun to focus their attention on this threat.

So DO read up on this threat. If you can see a tree outside your window, then it's likely you are impacted by what we've been discussing here.

The bottom line

There's no reason, really, to not understand what's going on. The environment is warming; therefore, insects are doing better; therefore, they're killing more trees throughout our forests; therefore, those forests are more likely to go up in flames -- threatening those that we serve and protect.

So what can be done about these infestations? Not a damn thing.

What can be done to protect and serve the public? Much.

  • You can work with your zoning folks to prevent subdivisions and even towns from being built in high-hazard areas.
  • You can advocate for the swift and timely removal of dead trees, which will give wildland fires less to work with.
  • You can educate your served public to the risks and hazards. The worst thing you ever want a member of the public to say on the news is: "We weren't warned."
  • You can use your imagination and your understanding of planning to adapt your emergency plans to what you know needs to be done. Nobody knows it better than you--so go for it.

And, of course, hang on for summer. We already know it's going to be a wild one.

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.