Open Spaces : forests

Up in Flames: Wildfire on a Refuge

By June 2011, more acres had burned from wildfires across the country than in all of 2010. The following is a look at one of those wildfires, still raging in Georgia at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. In the Southeast Region, 258 fires have started this year on nearly three dozen national wildlife refuges. A total of about 432,000 acres have burned, the vast majority in the Okefenokee.

It started with a bolt of lightning that hit the swamp at 9 a.m. on April 30. More than three months later, fire is still on the move in the water-starved Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. About three-quarters of the refuge have burned, totaling more than 300,000 acres.

An active fire.An active fire.  Image Credit: Howard McCullough

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505050 Week in Review (Week of May 16th)

If you missed a story in our climate change series this week, don't worry!  We've got the rundown of last week's stories right here. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. As always, we love to hear what you think. 

Maine : Rising Temperatures and Declining Snowfall Spell Trouble for Canada Lynx 
With temperatures predicted to rise in the coming years, the deep snow cover that the Canada lynx depends on may be significantly reduced, eliminating its competitive advantage over other predators. 

Lynx kitten with ear tag for future identification.
Minnesota : Warmer Temperatures Take a Toll on Minnesota Moose 
Minnesota ’s iconic moose might be the seven-foot-tall, 1,000 pound version of the canary in the coal mine. The large antlered animal appears on the verge of being pushed out of its southernmost historic range by climate change and other stressors. 

Minnesota Moose
Wyoming : Warmer Winter Temperatures Fuel Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation 
Driven by climate changes, Lodgepole pine forests of the Intermountain west are undergoing an unprecedented epidemic of the native mountain pine beetle. 

Three Toed Woodpecker

Mississippi : A Terrapin’s View of Climate Change 

The 10,216-acre Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge is under threat from the very thing that gives it life – the Gulf of Mexico and its changing sea levels. 

Diamondback Terrapin
Texas : In Face of Climate Change, Coast Is Not Clear for Whooping Cranes 
Even though a record-breaking 281 whooping cranes wintered this past season at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas, climate change is a major concern for the charismatic endangered species. 

Whooping Cranes

Wyoming: ‘Perfect Storm’ Fuels Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic

An extreme closeup of a mountain pine beetle
Triggered by a “perfect storm” of extended droughts, warm winters, and old, dense forests, mountain pine beetle populations have exploded across a landscape of lodgepole pine trees throughout Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. Photo: USDA Forest Service. Download.

Lodgepole pine forests in parts of Wyoming and other areas of the Intermountain West are being infested by the native mountain pine beetle – a voracious bug smaller than your little fingernail that is thriving in a warming climate.

Triggered by a “perfect storm” of extended droughts, warm winters, and old, dense forests, mountain pine beetle populations have exploded across a landscape of lodgepole pine trees throughout Colorado and southeastern Wyoming.

The mountain pine beetle is a true predator on many western pine trees because to successfully reproduce, the beetles must kill host trees. They typically kill trees already weakened by disease or old age, but even a healthy tree’s defensive mechanisms can be exhausted when beetle numbers are at epidemic levels. The beetle attacks pines in late summer, dispersing a chemical signal that attracts other beetles to mass-attack the tree. When the beetles bore through the bark of the tree, they introduce blue-stain fungus, which can work quickly to kill the tree. Trees stressed by drought and old-age are unable to produce sufficient defenses to fend off beetle attacks. The beetles form tunnels and lay eggs underneath the bark, which hatch into larvae. The larvae spend the winter underneath the bark and emerge as adults in the summer, beginning the cycle again.

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Last updated: June 21, 2012