University of Colorado at Boulder

Verdict’s still out on pine-beetle-kill fire effects

October 12, 2012.    Category: Research

Tom Veblen

Whizzing along the I-70 corridor into the Rocky Mountains, it’s hard not to notice widespread patches of dry, dead, red trees dispersed throughout the steep green hillsides. Whether they are ponderosa pines or lodgepole pines, many of these trees have been killed by insect infestation, most notoriously by pine beetles.

For many head-shaking observers, there is a next logical thought: All those dead trees are going to provide highly combustible fuel for a wildfire at some point. And, the thinking often goes, that’s going to translate into more — and more catastrophic — fires.

But that conventional wisdom might be wrong. That’s the conclusion of research by three University of Colorado Boulder scientists recently published article in PLoS One, an online peer-reviewed research journal.

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