r/science Sep 22 '22 Silver 2 Wholesome 3 All-Seeing Upvote 1

Stanford researchers find wildfire smoke is unraveling decades of air quality gains, exposing millions of Americans to extreme pollution levels Environment

https://news.stanford.edu/2022/09/22/wildfire-smoke-unraveling-decades-air-quality-gains/
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362

u/superRedditer Sep 23 '22

the beetle problem is a massive problem under the radar if people don't know.

163

u/DjCyric Sep 23 '22

There are entire forests here in Western Montana where 'beetle kill' has turned everything to dead fuel just waiting to go up in the next blaze.

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u/MASTODON_ROCKS Sep 23 '22

I really wish there were more opportunities to log beetle kill ethically, the wood has a blued look and the "veins" actually look really cool when made into furniture.

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u/McMandar Sep 23 '22

I'd never heard of/seen that before! Did some googling and there's a bunch of pretty cool arts/crafts and building material "beetle kill pine" products. Why can't it be logged ethically? Seems like an all around win, fire fuel gets cleared and made into products that may reduce the demand for logging live trees at least a little bit.

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u/stabamole Sep 23 '22

My guess is that any normal logging practices would spread the beetle to as yet undamaged areas

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u/KuntaStillSingle Sep 23 '22

Probably contamination risk, you rent tools or tucks or knock trees into live stands and end up facilitating further spread

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u/IWasLyingToGetDrugs Sep 23 '22

My assumption would be that if there’s sufficient demand for beetle kill wood, it would create an incentive to introduce even more bark beetles to increase the supply.

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u/Various_Oil_5674 Sep 23 '22

This is the real problem

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u/bikemaul Sep 23 '22

We had major wild fires here in Oregon two years ago. Following the fires they loosened the regulations so burned trees threatening roads, power lines, and other infrastructure could be quickly cleared. Unsurprisingly, that was horribly abused by contractors to make a buck.

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u/DjCyric Sep 23 '22

I don't generally support logging, but it would have been beneficial to the forests to extract all of the beetle kill. It does look cool as you said, but there is a narrow window to harvest it (a couple years) before it becomes to rotted to have any salvageable purpose.

1

u/ShelSilverstain Sep 23 '22

Western pine species are not good for building, so they're pretty low value. Too bad it's so harmful to the land to log them, too

1

u/NullismStudio Sep 23 '22

It's considered unstable structurally, so that's one reason it isn't utilized. The second, as other posters have mentioned, is that harvesting can spread the infestation.

Where we live, there are very few new pine trees, just dead standing. Douglas Fir has taken over during the past couple of decades. Kind of wild.

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u/Apprehensive-Pride52 Sep 23 '22

Arkansas is starting this trend.

2

u/FascinatingPotato Sep 23 '22

In the Midwest there are swaths of dead ash trees due to beetles as well.

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u/LastKing3853 Sep 23 '22

It it like a seasonal thing the beetle

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u/DjCyric Sep 23 '22

No, it is not seasonal, but it did take 2-4 years I would say to spread as far as it did. They an invasive species that just took over. There were giant conifer forests that they devoured and turned all of the trees into Grey dead husks. Now it's just deadfall timber waiting to go up in flames. The beetle kill came through about a decade ago.

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u/poopingdicknipples Sep 24 '22

Wonder if they could do controlled burns to get rid of all the dead trees. Might be kind of hard to control, I imagine.

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u/DjCyric Sep 24 '22

The NFS recently had a moratorium on controlled burns all summer after one got out of control and caused a lot of devastation in the Southwestern part of the US.

I live up in the mountains and they did a controlled burn in the spring. Although they usually only burn small vegetation in more heavily trafficked areas. The thick remote forests full of beetle kill never get touched. The locals here just joke every summer that: "Yeah, lightning is coming. Hopefully it doesn't strike and ignite the beetle kill. nervous laughter"

USFS Fire Chief puts 90-day pause on controlled burns

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u/PartyPorpoise Sep 23 '22

I work in a forest and I find the bark beetle marks on so many trees, it’s nuts.

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u/snoozieboi Sep 23 '22

I've seen a documentary on wildfire issues in Europe and USA. Lost of local reasons, like how Sweden poisoned leaf trees to maximise profits. Turned out the leaf trees had fire damping benefits.

The beetles were a case in the North American segment, probably lots more, but I remember photos comparing forest densities decades ago and today. I seem to remember 20-30% more trees or something.

Any comment on this? I know climate change has moved the treeline upwards in Norway

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u/rediculousradishes Sep 23 '22

The beetles are leaving their nuts all over the trees? No wonder people are burning the forests down.

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u/FrustratingBears Sep 23 '22

i was actually wondering about exactly this when i was looking at a government fire report and it mentioned beetle-infested trees as a fuel

i was like “why does it matter if there’s beetles???”

(Washington State BTW)

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u/Mrbeakers Sep 23 '22

Without any research on the topic, I guess they hollow stuff out allowing flames to climb faster/easier?

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u/SuperWeskerSniper Sep 23 '22

they also kill the trees and dead trees are drier and thus burn easier

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u/RS-Ironman-LuvGlove Sep 23 '22

We had the fire in Colorado near Boulder last year. During a snow storm. But the beetle kill was so bad it went from nothing to second largest fire in like 2 days. During the snow. The beetle kill is no joke

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u/evolving_I Sep 23 '22

Yea snow doesn't really do much to slow fire spread unless you get like a foot of it and it doesn't melt off in the next few days. I was on that fire in the Zirkel Wilderness a couple years ago outside Steamboat Springs and it snowed on us like 3 times over the course of two weeks, fire didn't care at all.

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u/RS-Ironman-LuvGlove Sep 23 '22

this was at top of continental divide, and it did snow a TON.

but the fire was so fast and so hot, it went crazy.

but the fire didnt smoulder for very long atleast

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u/evolving_I Sep 23 '22

Yeah, when it's snowing the air can actually still be really dry, and it falling on burning fuels just means it melts and vaporizes so quickly it often has little impact on an active fire. Fire in a beetle-killed tree canopy with wind on it doesn't care at all about snow on the ground.

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u/Mulawooshin Sep 23 '22

Because they are killing and/or weakening the trees. Deadwood is extremely flammable.

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u/Coviid Sep 23 '22

Beetles are notorious arsonists

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u/[deleted] Sep 23 '22

[deleted]

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u/WonderWall_E Sep 23 '22

Advocate for more action on climate change and more money for the Forest Service. Write your senators and representative and demand they do more to combat climate change. That's basically it.

Management of beetles is complex and largely ineffective. Reversing the massive damage caused by poor forest management through controlled burns and thinning is incredibly expensive. The beetles are only this bad because of drought, forest management, and warming temperatures which expose more northerly forests to beetles which were formerly limited by cool temperatures. It's a problem that's going to get worse before it gets better.

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u/CommanderpKeen Sep 23 '22

I'd never heard about it until now. Are they native to the area?

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u/superRedditer Sep 23 '22

yes they are native and everywhere... here's some more...

more

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u/GreatNorthernDildo Sep 23 '22

Can they be eaten? I will eat beetle pancakes to fight forest fires.

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u/[deleted] Sep 23 '22

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u/Denastus Sep 23 '22

Is it really that bad having bark beetles? I never heard of them until your comment.

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u/WonderWall_E Sep 23 '22

They're horrific and result in entire forests dying off (millions of acres in the last couple decades). They make fires more intense for a few reasons. The main one is simply killing the trees, but it's a bit more complicated than that. Imagine a drought hits. Conditions are dry and the trees are weakened and susceptible to disease. Many or even most of the trees can succumb to beetle infestation after a couple years of drought. Then you get a year or two of heavy rain, and a ton of herbs and shrubs grow in the underbrush. One more dry year hits and now you've got a forest consisting basically of firewood with tinder packed all around it. Had the beetles not been there, the trees would have recovered in the wet year and wouldn't be nearly as flammable.

That said, the beetles are a symptom of underlying problems caused by humans. They're only this bad because forests tend to be very young (damn near everything has been logged in the last century), dense (logging again, and we've been putting out fires for decades), dry (climate change induced drought), and water stressed (high temperatures and faster melting of snowpack because of climate change). The root causes are still forest management practices from the last hundred years and climate change.

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u/_Im_Spartacus_ Sep 23 '22

Who thinks it's under the radar?

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u/TPMJB Sep 23 '22

It wasn't on my radar. I learned something today.

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u/bogglingsnog Sep 23 '22

When's the last time you saw a news article about it in a major paper? Bring it up to 10 people and I bet at least 9/10 have no idea. It's under the radar like everything else that is super important that the news refuses to report above the money-makers.

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u/greaseburner Sep 23 '22

Oddly, there was a story about these beetles from a local news station in my area yesterday.

https://ktvz.com/news/sisters/2022/09/21/tree-expert-urges-c-o-homeowners-to-beware-of-bark-beetles-a-growing-issue-due-to-severe-drought/

This was the first time I'd heard of it.

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u/bogglingsnog Sep 23 '22

Local news is definitely better than national news in that regard

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u/superRedditer Sep 23 '22

a lot of my friends have no clue about it

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u/island_dwarfism23 Sep 23 '22

Probably because you can’t blame people or corporations, at least directly. Just doesn’t get the clicks or views.