Sunday, November 5, 2023

Pinon - Both Jay and Pine - Are Threatened

 Pinon Jay

A symbiotic relationship exists between a plant, the Pinon Pine, and a bird, the Pinon Jay.  Climate change has impacted the Pinon Pine terribly. The Pinon Pine is doubly hit by drought and heat. Pine Beetles have always attacked trees. (I did not know this.) In a healthy forest, beetles feed on the bark and help to decompose fallen trees.  The beetles are food for birds, but the birds are also dependent on pinecones for seeds.

Pinon pines, like other pine trees, attack beetles themselves when they hit the tree core. When this happens, the tree produces sap that closes the holes. But drought means trees are weaker and have less sap, so they die. Because trees are weaker and produce fewer pinecones, the numbers of birds fall. The lack of birds let more beetles into the forest in a vicious cycle.

People need to figure out how to breathe new life into this ecosystem.  Typically, over hundreds or thousands of years, the pines would move to higher ground with seeds delivered by birds. The Pinon-juniper "forests" covered much of the southwestern states, particularly New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. Is there some way to move the forests quick to prevent die out?

Maybe. Or we could end up with isolated preserves of these plants and animals that are too small to survive independently, and people have to help with forest management. And if that happens, we could see ecosystems as artificial as zoos.

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