The status of the white pines is a crucial topic these days when discussing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, illustrating how everything is interrelated and more fragile than many think. Here’s the deal: white pines are a crucial cog in the life cycle of a grizzly bear, providing pine nuts (filled with protein) for grizzlies when they emerge from their winter hibernation. Take away the pine cones, and the grizzlies lack food.
The white pines are being ravaged by beetles; a visual inspection by NRDC folks indicate heavy damage among forests of white pines, sometimes reaching 70 percent losses. The beetles aren’t new to Yellowstone, but they’re doing more damage now that winters are milder in the Park ecosystem, giving them extended seasons to wreak havoc. It is the most visible sign of global warming in the Park, and one that affects a major species whose survival is already in doubt. There’s no easy solution here, no fix that Park Service officials can implement, but it’s a clear warning sign in the debate over global warming.