The recent spruce beetle outbreak in BC is larger than any previously recorded outbreak and has the potential to change forest ecosystems in BC. Increased spruce beetle activity can result in larger numbers of dead spruce trees, which releases carbon into the atmosphere and negatively impacts the BC forest industry – which contributed nearly $13 billion dollars to the provincial GDP in 2016. Mitigating the effects of the current outbreaks will reduce pressure on BC’s timber supply and prevent elevated greenhouse gas emissions from large numbers of dead and dying mature trees.
Climate change is shifting spruce beetle populations in BC toward massive outbreaks. Without cold winters to kill the beetles, more survive each season and hotter summers have doubled how fast the beetles reproduce. The province estimates that the total invested area in BC, 283,083 has doubled to 501,873 from 2016 to 2017. The large outbreak near Prince George and elevated populations throughout BC are evidence of these shifts.
To help defend BC’s spruce stands, this research project will develop two methods to reduce the impact of spruce beetles in the province and provide more information to regulators and foresters to guide future pest management strategies in BC:
1. Identify defense traits that help spruce trees survive beetle infestations and move those pest-resistant traits into spruce trees to support future plantation efforts.
2. Use genomic tools and past experience from working with another forest pest, the mountain pine beetle to help understand the spruce beetle life-cycle, their biology and how they can be stopped.
The overall objective of this research is to provide foresters, policy makers, and scientists with information and tools to respond rapidly to an emerging insect epidemic in British Columbia. If successful this project will help save BC forests, reduce the carbon emitted from spruce-killed tree stands and help protect the $13 billion dollar forestry industry in the province.