Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I have traveled through western Canada several times by car and by train and I have seen firsthand the devastating effects on forests there wrought by the beetles reported in “Pine beetles swarm to west Canada” (The Japan Times, Tuesday, November 27, 2012). Entire mountainsides that habitually are covered with green forests are an ugly brown mat of dead timber. All that dead wood raises the already considerable risks of summer time forest fires, but I haven’t understood yet if the timber is still useable as commercial lumber.
It is not correct, though, to frame the beetle scourge as “an army of rice-size beetles, attracted to warming weather.” The beetles are not an alien species “swarming” to western North America. They have always been a natural part of that ecosystem. They have always “infested” the forests if by that you mean that they naturally reside there. The problem today is that warming winter time temperatures have removed a controlling effect on the beetle population of the previously colder weather. In years past the colder winter weather killed many of the beetle larvae hibernating under the bark of the trees and maintained a balance. Now with climate change that control is removed, things are out of balance and all hell is breaking loose on the slopes, in the valleys and in the communities whose economic lives depend on the large forestry sector.
Published on Sunday, December 2, 2012 as "Beetle population out of control."