As appearing in Rocky Mountain Wild | 04.16.13

Dr. Jason Sibold from Colorado State University gave testimony before Congress about what more and more scientific studies are telling us about forest fires:  that mountain pine beetle outbreaks do not necessarily increase the risk of wildfires.

wildfire2Despite what some politicians and land managers may be saying, prolonged drought conditions have much more to do with the increased fire risk across the West than does beetle-killed trees.

Dr. Sibold’s testimony is an excellent summary of the emerging understanding among forest ecologists.

Multiple studies are now pointing to the real relationship among drought, fire danger, and beetle kill:  the risk of forest fires increases with drought conditions, and our current prolonged drought and the explosion of pine and spruce beetle populations are both symptoms of global warming.

In other words, beetles alone are not causing more wildfires, but beetles and fire are related because the rise of both in recent years is a sign of the much larger problem our forests face:  rapidly changing climate due to out-of-control greenhouse gas emissions.  A recent NASA video  highlights some of the specific research supporting this emerging picture of our forests.