Mountain Nature and Culture Podcast
About This Show
This podcast explores the natural and human history of the Canadian Rockies as well as its attractions and culture. We'll look at the ecology and wildlife as well as the unique plants and birds that make the Canadian Rockies home. Looking back through our history we will share the stories behind the scenery. This is the place for all things Rockies.
Most Recent Episode
Pine beetles bring fire fears and Major A.B. Rogers surveys through the western Mountains, episode 040 of the Mountain Nature and Culture Podcast
4 days ago
Welcome to episode 40 of the Mountain Nature and Culture Podcast. I'm your host, Ward Cameron, and I record this on August 16, 2017, we've finally received a bit of rain in the Canadian Rockies. Every drop is a gift at this point and hopefully it will reduce our explosive fire hazard and let us stop worrying about unplanned fires. This week, I take a look at the fire fears in Jasper as an increase in pine beetle killed pines has added vast amounts of fuel to an already tinder dry forest. I also continue the story of Major A.B. Rogers, the surveyor responsible for designing the route that the Canadian Pacific Railway follows as it traverses the Rocky and Selkirk Mountains of western Canada. Pine Beetles Wreak Havoc on Jasper's Forests I just returned from 4-days of hiking in Jasper National Park, and I was horrified by the damage being done by mountain pine beetle in the park. In a summer plagued by an almost endless drought, thousands of dead pine trees simply adds fuel to the potential for a huge fire in the park. Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) is a natural pest of the mountain forests of western Canada and the U.S. but historically they were only found in very low numbers in the park. The beetles create tunnels behind the bark in the layer of cells called the phloem, the thin layer of cells that transmit sugars within the plant. As they mine this layer, they may end up killing the tree, but they also carry with them a blue stain fungus. This fungus finishes the job by interrupting the ability of nutrients to move up and down the tree trunk. It also stains the wood blue, destroying any potential commercial value that it might have. If you have any doubt about the impact of a warming climate, just take a drive towards the town of Jasper. Warmer temperatures have allowed the beetles to explode in numbers and infest enormous numbers of lodgepole pine as well as western white pine. The lack of sufficiently cold winters is coupled with decades of fire suppression to provide plenty of food for them to take advantage of. The beetle is now expanding its range eastward out of the Rockies while also affecting trees at higher and higher elevation. As populations grow, the beetles disperse in one of two ways. In the first, dispersal within stands, they usually just travel a short distance, up to 30 metres or so, but when they move above the canopy into a long-distance dispersal, they can travel hundreds of kilometres. Long-distance dispersals are d