And you thought forest fires were a problem?

At first glance, you might not look at this photograph and realize something is terribly wrong. Something is killing the lodgepole pine trees in Western Canada. Do you see the “red” trees? They are dead lodgepole pines, and the blight has engulfed nearly half the forest in Jasper National Park.

In this picturesque view of the Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, you can see the “red” trees. Acres of lodgepole pine trees are dying, and they only regenerate after a forest fire.

The villain behind this vast arboricide is a tiny insect called the mountain pine beetle. It lays eggs under the bark that leads to fungus, blocking the circulation inside a pine tree trunk, killing it. With the warmer weather of climate change, the pine beetle has flourished, unchecked by mild winters.

What is Parks Canada going to do? For a long time, the answer was “nothing,” because the philosophy was not to interfere with the ways of Nature. Recently, however, workers have begun cutting down some of the dead trees to reduce fire risk to nearby communities.

Botanists have discovered that the lodgepole pine cones, containing the seeds that would start regeneration only open in the extreme heat of a forest fire. After a natural forest fire has swept the acreage, then the seeds will begin to grow the next generation of lodgepole pines. To me, it seems like a harsh path of evolution wherein the pest thrives, the verdant hillside dies and waits for lightening to strike.

To read more about the pine beetle crisis, you can click here.