Destructive Beetle Spreads Across New Jersey’s Pinelands

Blue Anchor, NJ (December 1, 2013) – With temperatures rising the southern pine beetle is headed North. Historically, it was too cold for the beetles to live north of Delaware, but New Jersey has warmed by about 2.3 degrees over the past century, with fewer bitterly cold nights. Temperatures of about 8 degrees below zero are needed to kill most beetles, but the last night that cold in the Pinelands was in 1996, and the beetle outbreak was first noticed five years later.

southern pine beetleThe small beetles burrow through a tree’s bark and consume a layer of tissue that provides the tree with nutrients and water. As the trees starve to death, they take on the color of a broadleaf forest in autumn.

Healthy trees can fight off small numbers of beetles by exuding a sticky sap that pushes them out. But a large beetle outbreak can overwhelm even vigorous trees. This recent infestation, which has killed tens of thousands of acres of pines, scientists say is almost certainly a consequence of global warming, and warn of a further march north.

This new outbreak is also raising questions about the most effect response—more forest management or less. This is especially critical questions as trees are under much more stress, and given temperature shifts upward, the problem is unlikely to go away. The battle of “stewardship” is being played out among scientists, environmentalist, and politicians. But if climate warming continues and beetles head up the east coast, forest management is likely to become critical. Read the full article.

Source: Justin Gillis, “In New Jersey Pines, Trouble Arrives on Six Legs,” New York Times