Study: Beetle-Kill Outbreaks Don’t Hurt Water As Much As Fire And Logging

September 19, 2016
Photo: Pine Beetle kill (AP Photo)
Pine trees in the White River National Forest near Frisco, Colo., glow rusty red after being killed by the mountain pine beetle in this file photo.

a study published in the journal Ecosystems. ​

For years, the impact of insect outbreaks on water quality wasn't well understood. A new study by U.S. Forest Service scientists adds to a body of research that suggests nitrogen levels don’t change much when lodge pole pine trees die from bark beetle attacks.

“Initially people were expecting that there would be large changes both in discharge, so the amount of water leaving these areas, and the quality of that water," said Chuck Rhoades, lead scientist on the study. "And neither of those things have been born out.”

Timber harvesting and wildfires can cause an increase in nitrogen levels in streams, which can affect fish habitat. Scientists analyzed three decades of data gathered south of Granby.

It’s the longest watershed scale study to examine the impacts of bark beetle outbreaks on streams and water quality.

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