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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Science Scene

Western pine forests succumb to North America’s largest known insect invasion


Western pine forests are experiencing an infestation of bark beetles that is destroying millions of acres of trees in the area.

Experts say it is the largest known species infestation that has ever occurred in North America.

The problem is the worst in British Columbia and Alberta. About 33 million acres of lodgepole pine forest have been destroyed in British Columbia, and winds in 2006 blew the beetle into northern Alberta. Experts fear the insects could travel as far as the Great Lakes.

The situation is also particularly bad in Colorado, where experts predict that practically all lodgepole pines over 5 inches in diameter will be lost if the trend continues.

One speculation for the outbreak include fire suppression, making almost all forests nearly the same age and letting trees grow large enough to be susceptible to beetles. Other contributors include a decade of drought that has weakened trees as well as milder winters.

The beetle invasion is causing an array of problems. It is negatively affecting the tourism industry and shifting the region’s ecosystems.

In hopes of keeping forests from dying completely, landowners are cutting down the pines. Cutting enough (about 75 percent) of the pines may reduce completion for water and allow for some trees to remain alive.

(Source: nytimes.com)


Unhappy people spend more time watching television


Unhappy people watch 30 percent more TV than those who describe themselves as content, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland.

In the study, one of the first to compare leisure activity with personal contentment perception, it was found that those who describe themselves asnot too happywatch about 5.6 additional hours of television compared with those who say they are really happy.

The research involved public opinion data from over 40,000 participants and time-use diaries.

The authors of the study say this does not mean that television watching causes unhappiness, but that there is a link that is not yet understood.

The study’s authors say that people may watch TV to ward off unhappiness. The happiest people estimate their weekly TV watching to 18.9 hours a week, while the least people estimated nearly 25 hours a week, according to the study.

(Source: washingtonpost.com)


ANNA OPALKA compiled SCIENCE SCENE and can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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