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Doubts and Droughts and Bark Beetles

What’s truly to blame for recent blazes across the Southwest?

I recently read some articles that were blaming bark beetles for all the forest fires. They said they are killing the trees, making them susceptible to fires. But, in reality, the drought is causing the problems. Bark beetles do not infest healthy trees, they infest trees that have been weakened. Trees and other plants give off chemical messages called kairomones. When trees are weakened because of lack of rain or for other reasons, the kairomones change and they attract bark beetles. Then the bark beetles give off insect pheromones that tells other beetles about the food source, the dying trees. Soon the trees are infested with bark beetles. As the trees further decline, they change their kairomones and other species of wood boring beetles come in. This process continues until the tree is dead. In the natural world, this is how it is supposed to happen.

Then lightning strikes, burns all the dried wood over hundreds or thousands of acres and eventually a new forest grows. Bark beetles aren't the cause of the fires, but they are part of the process. The drought is the cause, and whether the drought is man-made or cyclical doesn't really matter when the forest is on fire and your house is in the area. However, if we are doing anything to promote global warming and droughts, we need to change what we are doing rather than jumping into airplanes to spray our forests with pesticides to kill bark beetles, which has been mentioned in some areas.

I am not an expert on climates, but I do believe the drought is over. I think what we are experiencing in New Mexico and part of Colorado is our new climate, and maybe we should plan for it, learn to live with it and not expect any serious rain in the near future.

 

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Screen Talk at Jean Cocteau Cinema

An evening of behind-the-scenes screenwriting stories, straight-talk advice and good humor with screenwriter and Santa Fe resident Kirk Ellis.

The Wonder of Learning Exhibit at New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

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    3 Bad Jacks9.23.2014