Beetle infestation

June 22, 2012

The Column

The Column, The Column-06-22-2012, Volume 8, Issue 11
Page Number: 7

The western US and British Columbia are currently experiencing an infestation of bark beetles that are a potentially destructive force in forest ecosystems.

The western US and British Columbia are currently experiencing an infestation of bark beetles that are a potentially destructive force in forest ecosystems. By boring into the bark the beetles release gases from the trunks. However, up until now, it was not known how these insect attacks affect the atmosphere.1

The emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were collected from bark beetle infested and healthy lodgepole pine trees and from sites with and without active mountain pine beetle infestation using sorbent traps. The sorbent traps were then extracted with hexane and the extracts separated and detected using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS). Canister samples were also collected and analysed. Bark beetle infested trees were found to release up to 20 times more VOCs than healthy trees. It was also found that ß-phellandrene emissions correlated with bark beetle infestation.

The team concluded that an increase in the quantity of VOC emissions is a useful tool for identifying bark beetle infestation and for indicating when VOCs are at a level that can harm both the environment and human health.

1. Kara E. Huff Hartz et al., Environmental Science & Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es204205m

This story originally appeared in The Column. Click here to view that issue.