Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Bark Beetle Infestations Affect Water Quality, Stream Flows

April 22, 2014

April Flowers for – Your Universe Online

An infestation of bark beetles is killing trees in the mountains across the western US. The beetles all reproduce in the inner bark of the trees, though they kill the trees in different ways. For example, the mountain pine beetle attacks and kills live trees, while other species live in dead, weakened or dying trees. In fact, more than 3.4 million acres of pine trees in Colorado alone have fallen to the mountain pine beetle.

Researchers question what effect this massive tree die-off has on stream flow and water quality. According to a new study published in Nature Climate Change, the effect is pretty big.

“The unprecedented tree deaths caused by these beetles provided a new approach to estimating the interaction of trees with the water cycle in mountain headwaters like those of the Colorado and Platte Rivers,” hydrologist Reed Maxwell of the Colorado School of Mines, said in a recent statement.

Dying trees affect the water cycle in a variety of ways. For example, living trees take up water from the soil, move it throughout the plant, and evaporate it from the leaves, stems and flowers, in a process known as transpiration. Dying trees cease transpiration, leaving more in the local groundwater system and leading to increased water flow in nearby streams.

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