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Beetle Outbreaks and Climate Change

American Museum of Natural History

This interactive shows the extent of the killing of lodgepole pine trees in western Canada. The spread of pine beetle throughout British Columbia has devastated the lodgepole pine forests there. This animation shows the spread of the beetle and the increasing numbers of trees affected from 1999-2008 and predicts the spread up until 2015.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate's role in habitats ranges and adaptation of species to climate changes
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3a
Climate impacts ecosystems and past species extinctions
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3c
Life affects climate; climate affects life
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Life affects climate; climate affects life
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
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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

  • This animation shows the spread of the beetle and the increasing numbers of trees affected from 1999-2008 and predicts the spread up until 2015.
  • Background information, references, and data sources are clearly given.
  • Scientists in western Canada have been tracking the extent of the mountain pine beetle. This native insect kills weak and old lodgepole pine trees, thus promoting healthy growth of young forests. In times of drought, beetle populations can spike, spreading to healthy pine trees.
  • Historically, cold winters kept beetle populations under control. A new study published in the journal Nature highlights how climate change is promoting pine beetle outbreaks—and how the outbreaks are contributing to climate change.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This study provides the possible insect outbreaks and their feedback to the ecosystem and relates it to global warming and forest carbon dynamics.
  • It is a very interesting article as it combines forest dynamics with climate change. The focus is mostly on temperature.
  • Effect of precipitation, however, is not mentioned much, and the combined effect of decreasing precipitation during winter (less snow) and increasing temperature can increase effects of pine beetle and other invasive insects on trees.

About the Pedagogy

  • Excellent tool that would be useful when teaching about the carbon cycle feedbacks, biological limiting factors, and ecological consequences of climate change.
  • A how-to-use guide can be found at http://www.amnh.org/sciencebulletins/educators_guide/howuse.php.
  • This resource provides lots of information on pine bark beetle in an interesting format.
  • Educators may need to show where Western Canada is relative to the continental US.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent quality and easy to use.
  • Requires Adobe Flash player.
  • This interactive has no narration.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

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.

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-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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Systems and System Models, Cause and effect

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C2.3:Phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.

MS-C4.1: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

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

HS-LS2.C:Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

HS-LS4.C4:Changes in the physical environment, whether naturally occurring or human induced, have thus contributed to the expansion of some species, the emergence of new distinct species as populations diverge under different conditions, and the decline–and sometimes the extinction–of some species.

HS-LS4.D:Biodiversity and Humans

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1

Cause and effect

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

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