National

Oct 4, 2010 8:30 AM by Associated Press

Pine beetles changing water supply in West

Mountain pine beetles are a well-known danger to Rocky Mountain forests. New research shows the pests are making changes to the water supply and soil, too.

The University of Wyoming is looking to establish the impact of the pine beetles epidemic on mountain snowpack. Botany professor Brent Ewers tells the Casper Star-Tribune that as the beetles kill pine trees and the trees lose their needles, snowpack rises. But once the trees fall, he says, snowpack lessens because of wind and lack of shade.

Ewers says that dead trees cause more moisture in soil and streams because the trees aren't using the water themselves. But the stronger flows cause erosion.

UW researchers are also looking at how the tree kills affect carbon levels in the soil.

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