The bark beetle has already eaten 93 million trees in the Czech Republic

The bark beetle has already eaten 93 million trees in the Czech Republic
The bark beetle has already eaten 93 million trees in the Czech Republic

Sometimes even a fairly small creature can wreak havoc. The bark beetle plague has been going on in the Czech Republic since 2015. And while last year looked promising, this year the forests are heading for another disaster. Altogether, 81 to 93 million cubic meters of bark wood have already been harvested in the country.

It is such a large number that it is hard to imagine. For a better picture, it is possible to add a simple simile – one cube of wood is roughly one tree. This means that up to 93 million trees fell victim to the little bug in the last seven years.

“The volume cannot be clearly determined accurately, as information from one hundred percent of the forest owners is not available. However, information is available from the Forest Protection Service on the volume of extracted spruce bark wood based on reports submitted by forest owners from an area of ​​around seventy percent of the forests. explains Vojtěch Bílý, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture.

The total number is the result of an artificial addition, when the state estimated how the remaining thirty percent of owners are doing. However, data from the Czech Statistical Office on random mining are also available, where insect mining is also reported. In such a case, it can be assumed that the vast majority of these extractions took place as a result of an attack by the spruce borer. It is the figures of the Czech Statistical Office that count on a larger volume of harvested wood.

If we take into account the data of the statistical office, then the bark beetle had 2,309 cubic meters of wood for lunch in 2015, 13,059 in 2018, and the largest volume of mining was achieved so far in 2020, when 26,243 cubic meters of wood were felled.

Last year, the glutton at least got a little rest. Bark mining fell by a third compared to 2020. “This result was influenced by the interplay of a number of factors, especially the positive effect of the last two climatically favorable seasons leading to a slowdown in the dynamics of the development of bark beetles, at the same time a gradual increase in the scope of processing capacities and the end of the sales crisis for raw wood,” depicted by White.

At the same time, however, the Ministry points out that last year’s drop in mining by a third needs to be understood in its entire context. First of all, this is the first ever recorded decline in bark extraction since the beginning of the calamity in 2015. Even so, last year’s extractions represent the third highest recorded value in history.

At the end of 2021, forests in the Czech Republic covered 2.68 million hectares

And secondly, the volume of mining for the year 2021 represents roughly ten to thirteen times the average annual bark mining before the calamity, if the period between 2005 and 2014 is taken into account.

In addition to all this, the bark beetle is still overpopulated in most of the Czech Republic and this year’s outlook is definitely not positive. “Development to date is again more inclined to the development of bark beetles than to the improvement of the physiological condition of woody plants,” adds the spokesperson of the Department of Agriculture.

Especially not the wind!

Bark beetles are especially affected by drought and high temperatures. At the same time, it can be assumed that there will be more and more such years as a result of climate change. If this becomes reality, the ministry warns that if, for example, there is a strong wind that causes large-scale damage, there will also be further development of bark beetles. “Even under favorable circumstances, the mitigation of the calamity will take the next few years,” adds White.

Even if the drought helps the little pest, it is not the only reason why the gorse eater has already destroyed so many trees. A species-varied forest is best able to resist pests. After all, they were historically like that in the Czech Republic as well. Around the reign of Charles VI, and later Maria Theresa, however, the forests began to change. Spruce suddenly dominated. The reason is simple – it is an ideal economic tree that grows quickly and is easy to work with.

The conifer, which was native mainly to higher elevations, suddenly grew all over the country. If the forests were mixed and varied in species, the bark beetle would eat the spruce just as it does now, but the vast majority of other trees would remain untouched.

From the 1990s until 2017, forests absorbed roughly five percent of emissions in the Czech Republic.

In addition, spruce is much more susceptible to climate change than other trees. It has shallow roots. If it is dry, the spruce is without water very soon. This weakens it and makes it more susceptible to pests. When untimely interventions are added, i.e. the late felling of the infested tree, the lack of processing capacities that have plagued the Czechia in recent years, and also low sales abroad, the problem is global.

At the same time, it is currently even greater because trees are a natural absorber of greenhouse gases. From the 1990s until 2017, forests absorbed roughly five percent of emissions in the Czech Republic. In 2018, things turned around. Not only did the Czech forests stop absorbing harmful substances, but they also contributed four percent to the total emissions. The reason is unhealthy trees weakened by the calamity.

The state is now trying to reverse this direction. Species-varied forests are being planted again. This means that deciduous trees prevail over conifers in the planting of young saplings in clearings after bark beetles. Of last year’s 243 million seedlings, 155 were deciduous and only 88 conifers. In addition, the area on which deciduous trees are planted prevailed for the third year already.

The article is in Czech

Tags: bark beetle eaten million trees Czech Republic

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