Fire Science Digest: Bark Beetles and Fire: Two Forces of Nature Transforming Western Forests

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Bark beetles are chewing a wide swath through forests across North America. Over the past few years, infestations have become epidemic in lodgepole and spruce-fir forests of the Intermountain West. The resulting extensive acreages of dead trees are alarming the public and raising concern about risk of severe fire. Researchers supported by the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) are examining the complicated relationship between bark beetles and wildfire, the two most influential natural disturbance agents in these forests. Are the beetles setting the stage for larger, more severe wildfires? And are fires bringing on beetle epidemics? Contrary to popular opinion, the answer to both questions seems to be “no.”

Image Source: Joint Fire Science Program