MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLE
Why are our forests changing?
Created in the Making Global Local workshops, University of Colorado at Boulder
Why are our forests changing?
9-12 (could be adapted for middle school)
Lesson Time Requirement
Five 50-minute periods
Climate Literacy Principles Addressed
- 3. LIfe on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate
- 7. Climate change will have consequences for the earth system and human lives
Colorado State Standards Addressed
- High School: LS2, LS9, ES4
- Understand general Mountain Pine Beetle ecology.
- Demonstrate an understanding the effect of Mountain Pine Beetle on forest health.
- Understand the influence of climate on Pine Beetle population
- Understand the influence of humans on climate change
- Understand the influence of forest management practices on forest health
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MOUNTAIN PINE BEETLES
Why are our forests changing?
Prior Knowledge Required
- All organisms have specific life cycles.
- Organisms have optimal conditions for survival.
Common Student Misconceptions & Prior Understandings
- Pine trees are dying off in the foothills and mountains all around western North Amer-ica.
- Are Mountain Pine Beetles native or non-native?
- Trees may be dying off because of road salt, fungus, or bacteria.
- The trees are dying because they are old.
Use of computer lab with Internet access; student handouts
Introduction to Lesson
A tiny beetle is wreaking havoc throughout the forests of western North America. Not since the early 1980s has there been such an explosion of Mountain Pine Beetle, an insect that targets lodgepole pine first and then will move onto other species when the logdepoles are gone. The population of beetles waxes and wanes as a natural cycle; however, warmer winters and hotter summers are allowing beetle populations to expand faster and further than has been previously noticed. The Mountain Pine Beetle population explosion from 2000-2010 affected over 45 mil-lion acres of forests stretching from British Columbia and Alberta southward to Colorado, New Mexico, and Northern Arizona.
Pre-assessment – Pose the following questions to the entire class. Have them answer them quietly to themselves. When they are done, students take a few minutes to share their answers in a small group.
- Why the forests are dying?
- What are Mountain Pine Beetles?
- What do you need to know about forests and pine beetles to help us determine if the beetles are causing the die off.
As a whole class, discuss the pre-assessment questions and the video. Guide students to de-velop the following research questions:
- What is the life cycle of the mountain pine beetle?
- What are the density dependent and density independent limiting factors of the Mountain Pine Beetle and how they could affect the beetle population?
- What niche does the Mountain Pine Beetle fill in the forest?
- How do Mountain Pine Beetles affect trees? What types of trees are affected?
- What is the role of the fungus carried by Mountain Pine Beetles?
- If you suspect that the mountain pine beetle has infected a tree, what signs or symptoms would you look for?
- What has happened to the temperature in Colorado over the past 100 years and how might this be related to Mountain Pine Beetle population?
- Why has the temperature in Colorado changed over the past 100 years?
- What practices has the forestry department used for maintaining Colorado forests over the past 100 years? How might forestry management practices affect beetle population?
- What are the phases of population growth for Mountain Pine Beetles? (ie:endemic, incipient, epidemic, declining)
Student research - In groups, students will research each question and create computer presentations. Resources below will help give students a starting point for their research.
Students present their research to their peers. This may take more than one day if the class is large or students’ presentations are long. If time is an issue, students can send their presenta-tions to the teacher, who could select one slide from each groups’ research. Students present their findings to the whole class for one slide only. Following each slide, the class discusses their different perspectives on the content.
Concept Mapping and Concluding Discussion
After student presentations, have students work individually to create a concept map that links key terms about mountain pine beetles using the Concept Map handout and this list of terms:
- carrying capacity
- climax community
- competitive exclusion principle
- food web
- fundamental niche
- gross primary productivity
- indicator species
- keystone species
- latitudinal biodiversity gradient
- limiting factors (density dependent and independent)
- life history strategy
- natural selection
- net primary productivity (NPP)
- optimum range
- pioneer species
- primary producers
- realized niche
- range of tolerance
- species interactions (competition, predation, parasitism, mutualism, commensalism)
- species richness
- succession (primary and secondary)
- trophic cascades
- trophic level
After students have completed concept maps, teacher leads a concluding discussion of what has been learned using the following guiding questions:
- How do the Mountain Pine Beetles kill trees in Colorado?
- What are other causes of mortality for trees in Colorado forests?
- What characteristics of the forests in Colorado have caused the numbers of Pine Beetles to increase?
- What is the difference between endemic and epidemic levels of beetle populations?
- How do we know that present beetle populations are unusual?
- What affect have forest management policies had on Pine Beetle populations?
- What relationship has the changing climate had on Pine Beetle populations?
- What affect have humans had on the changing climate in Colorado?
- Part A. MPB Research Questions
- Part B. MPB Peer Group Assessment
- Part C. MPB Concept Map Assessment
Students will be assessed on their student presentations, notes pages from presentations, their discussion participation, and their concept maps.
Lesson Development Prompts
This lesson was developed for high school environmental science courses (both AP and regular) and taught during an ecology unit. Students are involved in inquiry as they develop research questions and investigate a significant problem that is affecting western forests. Students report to their peers about what they learn in their research.
Background Reading for Students and/or Teachers
See the provided “Resources” folder for some suggested readings.
- http://www.mpb.alberta.ca/Files/Beetle%20Mania.pdf (Pine Beetle Mania activity)
- http://csfs.colostate.edu/pdfs/MPB.pdf (CSU- Mountain Pine Beetle)
- http://learnmoreaboutclimate.colorado.edu/a-closer-look-at-the-science/scientist-interviews/video/thomas-veblen (full interview of Beetle expert)
- Precipitation with source.doc and Temperature with source.doc, on climate curriculum Wiki
- Snow Pack Data.xls and Snow Pack Graph.xls (in Resource folder, downloadable)
- Tree Mortality in the Western US.pdf - http://library.eri.nau.edu/gsdl/collect/erilibra/index/assoc/HASH011d/a4f5ae2b.dir/doc.pdf
- Tree Mortality in the Western US_short.pdf - http://www.eri.nau.edu/en/news/western-us-forests-suffer-death-by-degrees
- Research ties tree mortality to climate warming - http://www4.nau.edu/insidenau/bumps/2009/01_22_09/trees.htm
See the provided “Resources” folder for various extensions and readings
Students interested in the far-reaching affects of beetles may want to examine economic im-pacts on ski areas, logging and timber harvesting companies, bio-fuels, and tourism. One possibility is for students to examine feedbacks in the carbon cycle: Canadian Researchers have estimated that by 2020, the pine beetle outbreak will have released 270 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from Canadian forests. There is yet to be an accepted study of the carbon cycle effect over a future period of time for forests in the U.S. See “Colorado Snow Pack Data” in the “Resources” folder for an example spreadsheet that could enable students to examine the relationship between snowpack and beetle outbreaks.
Climate Literacy Essential Principles Addressed
3. Life on Earth depends on, is shaped by, and affects climate.
- a. Individual organisms survive within specific ranges of temperature, precipitation, humidity, and sunlight. Organisms exposed to climate conditions outside their normal range must adapt or migrate, or they will perish.
- c. Changes in climate conditions can affect the health and function of ecosystems and the survival of entire species. The distribution patterns of fossils show evidence of grad-ual as well as abrupt extinctions related to climate change in the past.
7. Climate change will have consequences for the earth system and human lives
- e. Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change. Animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses will migrate to new areas with favorable climate conditions. Infectious diseases and certain species will be able to invade areas that they did not previously inhabit.
Colorado State Science Standards (Based on the new Standards)
High School: Life Science
Explain and illustrate with examples how living systems interact with the biotic and abiotic envi-ronment.
- LS 2. The size and persistence of populations depend on their interactions with each other and on the abiotic factors in an ecosystem Analyze how various organisms grow, develop, and differentiate during their lifetimes based on the interplay between genetics and their environment
- LS 9. Evolution occurs as the heritable characteristics of populations change across generations and can lead populations to become better adapted to their environment
High School: Earth Science
Evaluate evidence that Earth’s geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere interact as a complex system.
- ES 4. Climate is the result of energy transfer among interactions of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere
You may download a zip file including all lesson plan handouts and resources.
Resources for Student Research
- Pine Beetle Mania Activity
- CSU Mountain Pine Beetle Information
- CSU Mountain Pine Beetle Management Resources
- CSU Bark Beetle Brochure
- Western Forests and Mountains Guide
- Boulder Magazine Mountain Pine Beetle Article
- USDA Forest Service: Western U.S. Bark Beetles and Climate Change
- CU-Boulder's Learn More About Climate Change Initiative
- Interview with CU-Boulder Professor and beetle expert Thomas Veblen
- Colorado Climate Report on Precipitation
- Colorado Climate Report on Temperature
- Natural Resources Conservation Service: Snow Pack Data
- Natural Resources Conservation Service: Snow Pack Graph
- Bark Beetle Talk by CU-Boulder's Jeremy Smith
- USFS Video: Bark Beetle Effects on Forests in the West
- Climate Change and Mountain Pine Beetle Toolkit