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Beetle-ridden forests lose climate help

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Moscow, Idaho (UPI) Dec 17, 2010
Forests infested by bark beetles struggle to fulfill their role as climate modulators, even decades after recovery from the infestation, U.S. researchers say.

Scientists at the University of Idaho say northern pine forests are under siege from the insects, with some infested stands at risk of losing at least 50 percent to 80 percent of mature trees, reported Friday.

The impact on Earth's climate is long-term because even after a forest has recovered from a beetle outbreak, it continues to suffer an ongoing drop in the rate at which growing trees remove carbon dioxide from the air.

That makes the forest less efficient at locking up the carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel burning, researchers Eric Pfeifer, Jeffrey Hicke and Arjan Meddens say.

While a forest may regain its previous population of trees in seven to 25 years, the rate at which it absorbs carbon dioxide will remain diminished for much longer, in some cases well over a century, the researchers report in the journal Global Change Biology.

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