Bark beetle outbreaks affect regional carbon cycle



Bark beetle outbreaks can kill a large number of trees—in fact, insect outbreaks affect an area similar in size to that affected by forest fires annually across North America. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, so bark beetle outbreaks can significantly affect regional carbon dynamics. In general, immediately after an outbreak, carbon uptake by trees decreases. Dead trees become snags, which may fall to the ground several or more years after the outbreak. After snags fall, decomposition increases. Carbon uptake begins to recover years to decades after a bark beetle outbreak. There have been few studies of biogeochemical cycling following outbreaks, and those studies have shown a variety of effects in different forests.