Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic
This collection of photographs, created over a span of 12 years, documents the unprecedented mountain pine beetle epidemic in Colorado. This epidemic was responsible for decimating millions of acres of Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine forest in North America and is now considered one of our planet’s greatest deforestation events in millennia. The mountain pine beetle epidemic reveals how the seemingly small changes to the Earth’s climate is hurting forests. Triggered by an extensive decades-long drought, the mountain pine beetle epidemic is a prime example of how the climate emergency can upset the natural balance of an ecosystem and cause chain reactions of cascading negative impacts on biodiversity.
As a foundational species, Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine trees depend on regional periodic cycles of drought, insect infestation and fire for their survival. Along with prolonged drought which weakens lodgepole pine trees’ natural defense against insect infestation, the climate crisis has made winters shorter, allowing native mountain pine beetles to increase their populations at alarming rates and infest significantly larger amounts of lodgepole forests across their entire range. Huge stands of dead lodgepole pines have created massive fuel loads that burn much hotter than they should, sterilizing fertile soil created by historic natural forest cycles and eliminating the chance of forest regeneration.
The inspiration for the name Witness Tree Media came from this project’s years-long documentation of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and the loss of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine forests.