Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

One person’s misfortune can be another’s gain. As Kathy observed on Facebook, yesterday’s photo of Yosemite Valley that was taken from Tunnel View shows a lot of dead and dying Ponderosa pines in the park. Five years of drought is the underlying problem, but the more immediate cause is the Bark beetle. Unlike our problems back east here with the Emerald Ash Borer, the Bark beetle is not an invasive species. It and the Ponderosa have evolved together. Sap is the pine’s defense against the Bark beetle. With it the tree can push the insect out, but with five years of drought the trees don’t have enough moisture to make sap, so the Bark beetles are having a field day. So are the woodpeckers that eat the beetles. Don’t feel too bad for the Ponderosa pines though, because there are now more trees in Yosemite Valley than there have ever been. The dead trees are a problem, because in these dry times they represent a dangerous amount of fuel. In all our hiking about the valley floor, we saw the blackened remains of several control burns. After decades of always preventing forest fires the park service has accepted forest fires as part of the natural order of things.



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