Bark Beetle In Bridal Veil
Species of bark beetle have been attacking coniferous forests in the state of
“I don’t think we’ve seen insect activity in our forests on this scale since the settlement period,” says Tom Eager, an entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service in
The adult Bark Beetle attack trees by boring holes into the bark and destroying the Phloem layer (the layer between the outer bark and the cambium layer). The adults lay egg galleries in the Phloem layer which spread around the tree and generally move in an upward direction. The larvae are present for two summers then pupate. After pupating they remain in the tree for the following winter and emerge by the next spring and move on to attack more trees. Trees are infested in groups and dead trees are usually an easy target for the Bark Beetle. Victim trees begin to die and their foliage becomes discolored. Effected trees can also be identified by boring holes in the bark, boring dust around the base of the tree, and an occasional blue stain fungus.
The objective of this study was to determine if bark beetle had greater effect in a more or less dense sub-alpine forest. Field observations led to the assumption that the more dense trees on the east slope would be much more affected by the bark beetle.
Bridal Veil basin is situated approximately five miles south west of Telluride,
For this research project we studied two forest plots, one on the east slope, which was more dense, and one on the west slope. Both plots were chosen at approximately the same elevation and were chosen at random. From appearance, the east side of the valley appeared to be denser and have more killed trees and the west side appeared to be more spread out with a less amount of dead trees.
The East plot had a saturated soil, which gave the ground a muddy and spongy feeling and the trees were close together. The vegetation was also mature, lush, and incredibly dense and the trees provided a thick umbrella over the ground. The dominant plants consist of Larkspur and Monk’s Hood. Both sites get the same amount of sunshine on average but some factors created prominent contrasts in the plots. The slope angle of the East plot was 32 degrees. Near the plot, there were small cliffs. About 1,000 feet above the perimeter of the East plot there is an old hydro-electric pipeline which gives the plot an advantage in water supply.
The West Plot is in the middle of an avalanche path. Several of the trees within the plot had been bent or killed by avalanche damage, causing it to be less dense, and the plot was surrounded by mostly open space where there were new saplings. The majority of the vegetation in the plot was not fully matured and seemed to exist in much drier conditions. The slope angle was 28 degrees in the west plot. The plants dominating the plot were for the most part shrubs, such as, wild geranium, cinquefoil, wild currant bushes, and meadow rue.
On the East side (east of Bridal Veil Creek) and on the west side, we observed and compared two very different 30-meter square plots. The two plots were at the same elevation and were randomly chosen. Tree counts were taken on each plot to determine the density of the trees and to assess the extent of the beetle kill. All the trees in each plot were counted, the species were identified, and the diameter at breast height was calculated for each dead or beetle affected specimen.
The first assessment for the west plot was taken on the 10th of August, 2005 and the east plot was assessed the following day (August 11, 2005). The counts were done by chalking all the counted trees and flagging all the dead trees. All rooted trees and saplings were included in the counts. The trees were identified as Engelmann Spruce or Sub-Alpine Fir (being the only present trees above 10,000 feet at sub-alpine level). Observing the needles, which should be square, when viewed at a cross section, and sharp, can identify Engelmann Spruce. Sub-Alpine Fir trees have flat and softer needles and the cones are clustered near the top of the tree pointing up.
Beetle affected trees were all dead and past the process of dying. To find traces of the beetles, bark can be peeled off the tree by hand or taken off by hatchet. The method was to find tunneling, boring holes, popcorn-like sap emerging from the tree, blue fungi, or sawdust around the base of the tree. The evidence of tunneling beneath the bark was the easiest to find.
After collecting all data, the Shannon-Weiner Biodiversity index equation was used to determine the diversity of the two plots and whether that affected the total number of beetle killed trees. Equations were also used to determine the density (number of trees per meter square).
Although the east plot was more dense than the west, it did not have any proof of bark beetle presence. The east plot had a total of 127 trees. 60 of the trees were Engelmen Spruce and 63 of the trees were Sub-Alpine-Fir. There was no evidence of bark beetle kill but there were four other trees that were dead. It was guessed that the four dead trees were killed by overcrowding. With the total of 127 trees in a 30 meter squared plot, it was calculated that the density of the east plot was 4.23 trees per square meter (see Table 1- biodiversity index). The biodiversity index (measurement of species index) of the east plot was .83196.
The west plot of
The hypothesis for the experiment failed to be supported. Several factors can define why the hypothesis was incorrect. In the two plots there was a definite moisture difference (see site description) thus producing more sap at the moister site. With more moisture on the east plot, there was also more lush and dense vegetation which may detract the bark beetle, while the small drier shrubs of the west plot may be more conducive to bark beetle activity. Also, the west plot was fragmented as the result of being in the middle of an avalanche path. Several dead logs laid on the ground of the west plot that were greatly affected by beetle kill which may have lead to beetle kill attraction to the standing trees.
To improve the study, it is suggested that the bird activity of the plots be observed to see if animal life may be a causing factor. Also, for a more precise study, larger or more plots could be looked at. Deeper research should include what types of forests have the most beetle activity.