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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

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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:

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