Beetle Infestation, CO

Beetle Infestation in Rocky Mountain National Park

Tree mortality, caused by the mountain pine beetle, is responsible for almost all the change in conifer tree health status represented in 2003 and 2010 Landsat satellite imagery over the western slopes of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Between those two dates, beetles killed a majority of the medium to large lodgepole pines in the forests in the region. Surveys of trees in field plots in that area in 2008.2010 found that an average of around 60% of the lodgepole pines were dead in each plot. There are other conifer species present that were not affected by mountain pine beetle (e.g. fir and spruce) though beetle infestation was the primary factor in tree damage.

In the 2003 image dense vegetation (dark green) can be seen near the center of the image. In the 2010 image the dark green is replaced by shades of brown over large areas. The brown is indicative of loss of trees due to the mountain pine beetle infestation. USGS staff, working with the Forest Service and the National Park Service personnel, are using the data to monitor the changes and the planning necessary for rehabilitation of the forests.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011