Contributed by CHRISTOPHER MAJKA
HAIFAX (23 May 2007) - ON 15 May 2007 representatives of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) appeared before the Nova Scotia Legislature's Resources Committee. In addition to admitting that there is little that the Agency can do to halt the natural spread of the brown spruce longhorn beetle (Tetropium fuscum), CFIA spokesman Greg Cunningham was quoted as saying that, "The storm (Hurricane Juan) created so much ground material that it gave the beetle an ideal opportunity to multiply."
Belatedly, it would appear that the Agency is finally admitting what the Friends of Point Pleasant Park (FPPP) and other environmental groups have been suggesting for some time, namely that the brown spruce longhorn beetle (BSLB) does not attack healthy trees. If it did, the hurricane-damaged trees would provide no special "opportunity." But there is more to this story than just a failure to "contain" the beetle.
The CFIA have just released the results of their 2006 BSLB survey in which they report finding 77 specimens of brown spruce longhorn beetles from approximately 25 sites. These sites indicate that the distribution of the beetle has apparently increased - almost entirely in the zone of trees downed by Hurricane Juan.
It has been some 3.5 years since the hurricane hit the province, and in the wake of the very considerable quantities of dead and dying wood generated by this event, one would expect to see an increase in saproxylic insects (those involved in the decay and decomposition of wood). After several years, when the dust settles on the post-Juan decomposition cycle, a corresponding decrease in such insects is to be expected as their food supply dwindles. In fact the BSLB, like almost all longhorn beetles, feeds on the inner bark of trees (cambium), and is in the first wave of the decomposition cycle. For them the food supply will run out first.
This pattern illustrates what Friends of Point Pleasant Park and an increasing array of environmental groups have been pointing out, namely that the brown spruce longhorn beetle in Nova Scotia is feeding on dead and dying trees (as it does across its native range in Europe and Asia) and there is no evidence that it attacks healthy forests.
There is an important omission in the information that CFIA has provided, however, namely what other wood-decomposing saproxylic insects (and their numbers) have been caught in the BSLB survey.
FPPP's information from Point Pleasant Park during the 2000-2003 interval shows that 21 species of longhorn beetles were present - only one of which was the brown spruce longhorn beetle. If one includes bark and jewel beetles (two other groups of beetles which feed on inner bark), the BSLB is only one of 54 such saproxylic beetles present. What this illustrates is that where BSLB are found in dead and dying trees, many other native beetles are also present.
Why does this matter?
As the Friends of Point Pleasant Park, the Lawrencetown/Cole Harbour Citizens' Committee, the Ecology Action Center, and an increasing array of environmental groups have been pointing out, there is simply no evidence that the brown spruce longhorn beetle is in any appreciable way different from the many native species of beetles found in the province. They all feed on dead and dying wood, and present no threat to healthy trees or forests. Seven years have passed since this issue came to light and the CFIA has not addressed this matter with research programme that would settle the question one way or the other. Attempts to exterminate, contain, or even "slow down" the beetle are pointless and unnecessary if:
a) there are many native insects engaged in the same activities; and
b) what they are doing is natural, healthy, and important, namely expediting the natural processes of the decay and decomposition of wood in the forest.
Without such insects, our forests would be knee-deep in dead wood, and the recycling of carbon and nutrients in the forest ecosystem would long ago have ceased.
Despite all of this, the CFIA has still not provided any evidence that their campaign - and all the associated expenses to taxpayers and inconveniences to property owners and wood-lot owners and operators - have any justification or any basis in fact.
For further information contact:
Christopher Majka Dr. Iain C. Taylor
Friends of Point Pleasant Park President, Friends of Pt Pleasant Park
(902) 425-3725 (902) 425-0668
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