According to an interview with the CBC given by Allan Carroll at Natural Resources Canada, there is not much hope of British Columbia containing the mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) that have already killed 9.2 million acres of forest. He said that “Our estimates are that by about 2013 to 2015, the beetle will have killed about as much as 80% of the mature pine in the province and I don’t think we can really affect that now.” As the supply of Lodgepole Pine becomes eliminated, the beetles sometimes move on to Spruce and other species. If the beetles begin to target the Jack Pine of the boreal forest, Carroll says that it “could wipe out billions of trees all the way to the East Coast.”
These insects were mentioned here before, in the context of the effect of changing minimum temperatures on species ranges. Apparently, once they have reached their maximum cold tolerance, these beetles can endure temperatures of -40°C. It is significant cold events in the early and late winter – before their chemical defences have fully come on stream – that can lead to “very large amounts of mortality in the [beetle] population.” A few very crisp fall days would do a lot for western Canada’s forests.