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Colorado's Forests and the Pine Beetle Epidemic

Office of University Outreach at the University of Colorado Boulder

This video features CU Boulder Professor Jeff Mitton and his research team, who study the effects of mountain pine beetle infestations on the forest ecology in the Rocky Mountains. They explain the pine beetle life cycle and how they attack trees. An outlook into the future is also provided.

Video length 9:23 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 6 Disciplinary Core Ideas
High School: 6 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Life affects climate; climate affects life
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Life affects climate; climate affects life
Evidence shows that human-caused global warming have impacted ecosystem resulting in reduced biodiversity and ecological resilience
About Teaching Principle 6
Other materials addressing 6d
Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7e
Climate change has consequences
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Climate change has consequences

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

About the Science

  • Professor Mitton and researchers explain the connection between the current mountain pine beetle epidemic and climate change in Colorado. They describe how the pine beetle attacks healthy trees and how, in warmer and drier conditions, trees are less able to expel beetles with their moisture-laden resin.
  • More significantly, with a longer warm season, Dr. Mitton's research indicates that pine beetles are able to produce two generations, rather than one, per year. Thus the reproductive potential of the beetle is exponentially greater than it was before. (note: other researchers at CU do not agree with Mitton's findings on this issue - further research needed on this issue)
  • The potential for forest regeneration is also discussed. Drought changes the species composition of the forest and makes it difficult for the regeneration of tree seedlings.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is an exceptionally clear presentation of the issues.
  • The rich details and clear images in this video promote an understanding of how drought conditions consistent with climate change affect both the pine beetle life cycle and the ability of trees to resist infestations.
  • While there is no teacher's guide, there are support materials on the webpage.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The video resolution is sufficient for classroom projection.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 6

MS-LS2.C1:Ecosystems are dynamic in nature; their characteristics can vary over time. Disruptions to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its populations.

MS-LS2.C2:Biodiversity describes the variety of species found in Earth’s terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems. The completeness or integrity of an ecosystem’s biodiversity is often used as a measure of its health

MS-LS4.D1:Changes in biodiversity can influence humans’ resources, such as food, energy, and medicines, as well as ecosystem services that humans rely on—for example, water purification and recycling.

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-ESS3.C1:Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 6

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-ESS3.C1:The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources.

HS-ESS3.D1:Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.

HS-LS2.C1:A complex set of interactions within an ecosystem can keep its numbers and types of organisms relatively constant over long periods of time under stable conditions. If a modest biological or physical disturbance to an ecosystem occurs, it may return to its more or less original status (i.e., the ecosystem is resilient), as opposed to becoming a very different ecosystem. Extreme fluctuations in conditions or the size of any population, however, can challenge the functioning of ecosystems in terms of resources and habitat availability.

HS-LS2.C2:Moreover, anthropogenic changes (induced by human activity) in the environment—including habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change—can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species.

HS-LS4.D2:Biodiversity is increased by the formation of new species (speciation) and decreased by the loss of species (extinction).

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