The pine beetle infestation in the province has peaked according to B.C.’s chief forester.
Jim Snetsinger says the beetle, after reaching its zenith in the Williams Lake area in 2006/07, has “significantly” dropped off. The reason: a lack of host.
“When a population gets to a very high level there gets to be competition between organisms and insects and this is what has happened,” Snetsinger says. “The population has really got to a point where there is no more host to sustain it and so the population starts to crash.”
The beetle, naturally occurring in the forest at low levels, prospered due to favourable climate conditions and the availability of Lodgepole pine. Along the way the beetles laid waste to a significant amount of pine. The Williams Lake Timber Supply Area is 54 per cent pine and experienced a “significant amount of mortality” because of the beetles.
Models now show that about 67 per cent of mature pine across the province could be affected by the beetle; past models indicated that 80 per cent was at risk.
Although the infestation is now on the decline, it’s not expected to reach the low point, or an endemic level, until 2017/2018. And Snetsinger says there is little preventing this beetle from making a resurgence in the future.
“There’s always that risk any time you have the right conditions for an epidemic of a population.”
In the Williams Lake TSA the affected pine is being harvested and replanted.
Snetsinger says that where it’s appropriate they are replanting other species, but in many areas pine is natural.
“We may be looking at where it’s ecologically appropriate to plant other species in a mix such as Douglas Fir and Spruce as you get further east where it’s a little moister,” he says.