Magazine article American Forests

Trouble in Pinon Country

Magazine article American Forests

Trouble in Pinon Country

Article excerpt

Large numbers of pinon pines are dying in the pinon-juniper forests of the Southwest due to a bark beetle outbreak triggered by several years of severe drought.

Covering portions of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and west Texas, the pinon-juniper forest is the West's largest forest ecosystem. These open woodlands provide habitat for birds, small mammals, and mule deer and are the dominant vegetation in many of the region's national parks and monuments, including Arches, Colorado National Monument, Cedar Breaks, Mesa Verde, and Grand Canyon. Pinon nuts were a staple in the diet of indigenous people of the Southwest and today are an ingredient in many regional dishes.

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Blamed for the damage is the pinon engraver beetle, Ips confuses, a Southwest native and an integral part of the pinon-juniper ecosystem. The beetles bore holes in the trees and lay their eggs; the larvae feed on the tree for several weeks before emerging fully grown to attack new trees. This process can be repeated from two to five times a year. …

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