In the Forest Health Index, insects and disease scores the amount of tree mortality caused by pests such as beetles and funguses. Tree-threatening diseases and insects, like bark beetles, play a natural role in the life cycle of forests. However, more intense or longer-lasting levels of infestation can disrupt forest ecosystems and change which species are most successful.
For the Forest Health Index, the insect and disease indicator uses maps generated by aerial surveys to measure the amount of dead or dying trees.
Near average: Insect and disease extent was near average for this watershed last year. This means that the percent of forest infestation is at a level comparable to conditions to which this forest has adapted.
Some amount of insect and disease infestation is necessary to allow for diversity and renewal in forests, but when insect or disease infestation causes a large die-off of trees, the resulting dead stands can pose fire hazards and threaten water supplies as a result of increased erosion. Infested forests can also have economic impacts for human communities, which may see decreases in activities such as tourism.
As average temperatures in Colorado rise, outbreaks may occur of insects and diseases that do well in warmer conditions. It can be difficult to prevent the spread of these infestations, but forest managers across the state are doing their best to protect trees by managing forests to be healthy and resilient to a variety of changes.