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Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America's Great Forests (David Suzuki Foundation Series) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 23. August 2011

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"Nikiforuk leavens this tragic, instructive history with curious facts about the complex, intelligent insect"—Publishers Weekly

"Sometimes called the "Katrina of the West," these infestations received very little publicity but caused the loss of millions of dollars worth of lumber ...Well written and informative... Highly Recommended"— Choice Reviews

“A terrific book on a terrifying subject... a chilling, fascinating, and important contribution to our understanding of a rapidly changing world.”— John Vaillant, author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce

"A compelling look at what may be the single biggest impact of climate change, and a harbinger of life to come on a warming planet." —Jim Robbins, Science Journalist, The New York Times

"Empire of the Beetle is a work of great skill and passion, and vital to anyone courageous enough to be interested in the ecology of the future."—Rick Bass, author of Winter: Notes From Montana

“[T]he Iliad of the bark beetles. It really demonstrates how intertwined nature is... as Andrew shows so well, we are part of nature.”
—John Perlin, leading U.S. solar energy expert and author of A Forest Journey

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist who has written about education, economics, and the environment for the last two decades. His books include Pandemonium, Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig's War Against Oil, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction, and The Fourth Horseman: A Short History of Plagues, Scourges and Emerging Viruses. His bestselling book Tar Sands won the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award.

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Amazon.com: 12 Rezensionen
20 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Important points, but some inaccuracies and a lot of bias 9. Oktober 2011
Von gub1bc - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
What I liked most about this book is the last chapter and the broader message on tipping points, critical thresholds, and quick catastrophic, irreversible changes in ecosystems. The books is an easy, entertaining read full of interesting characters, although at times I found it a little full of cutesy metaphors and sexy sounds bites.

What I liked least about the book was some of the information was incorrect and could not be verified. The worst offender for me was the statement that bad science led to fire suppression for decades. It is unclear to me how science led to fire suppression policies in the first half of the 20th century - that was public sentiment at the time and management decisions and politics. We (people/the public) wanted to save forests and trees for the future. It wasn't science that created Smokey the Bear. At the time, we didn't realize the critical role that fire plays in many ecosystems - we've since learned about the role of fire and public perception is (slowly) changing about wildfire. We now know that wildfire is a natural and necessary part of many ecosystems. SCIENCE taught us that and is responsible for our changing perceptions. Science has changed our understanding and led to this change in perception; I don't see how science was responsible for fire suppression in the first half of the last century.

Some examples of other issues I had with the book were:
- The statements around woodpeckers increasing 85-fold in bark beetle-infested stands and 12 woodpeckers feeding on one tree. I could not confirm any numbers close to this. A fair bit of research has been done on natural enemies of MPB, including woodpeckers. Many woodpeckers in conifer forests are territorial and so their numbers don't increase to such extreme levels. In addition, biologically, it seems improbable that they could increase 85-fold during the course of an infestation because they do not have the reproductive capacity and life cycle to allow such an incredibly dramatic increase over the course of a few years (the typical length of a bark beetle outbreak in a specific stand).
- The statements about logging trucks hauling infested logs causing outbreaks along roads. There are strict guidelines for industry around hauling logs during the beetle flight, which are taken very seriously, and there are no documented cases of logging trucks starting infestations.

There are several more examples, which make me question how well the book was researched. Talking to researchers is great, but they're mainly qualified to talk about their own research and some are prone to exaggeration. Most of the people interviewed were scientists - the book lacked interviews with on-the-ground folks (the decision-makers), yet the author was very quick to criticize all management decisions that were made. What I really wonder, is if I read some of the author's other work - on topics I actually know little about - how will I know which information is accurate and which isn't? Will I be able to tell where his bias so obviously lays? Undoubtedly, his writing is persuasive and will play a role in shaping my view on the subject - that is why I feel so strongly about the inaccuracies and bias.

Interestingly, near the end of the book, the author talks about the seminal work of Buzz Holling, a Federal Government Scientist, on eastern spruce budworm and how his findings were in contrast with govt. policy and management at the time. I think the author missed an opportunity to discuss driving forces behind policy and management decisions - public perception, pressures and desires. And conflicting public pressures. He talked to a lot of experts that did research and I think a nice balance would have been to also talk to the people that were on the front line in terms of dealing with public and industry pressure and the situation in the forest (the provincial govt. that actually decides what to do on BC's land base). While the author is quick to use 20/20 hindsight to condemn govt. and industry reaction to bark beetle outbreaks and he talks about public opposition to harvesting (and I agree there's room for criticism of the provincial govt. response), he doesn't adequately investigate the incredible pressure that was on the provincial govt. to do something and he doesn't talk about what they did that was good. There is certainly opposing public opinion that feels more control and harvesting should have been done. Look at the current situation with mountain pine beetle in Montana right now - incredible public support (including from environmental groups) for active management through harvesting, thinning and insecticide (carbaryl application). I think the author could have represented opposing public opinions in the book to give more balance and show the complex reality that humans must address as we make decisions about how we manage our forests and the environment in general. Stating your opinion and making everyone else sound like an idiot for not agreeing with you or having your 20/20 hindsight only serves to polarize people on complex issues and decisions that we have to make about our environment.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Don't Blame the Beetle 26. Oktober 2011
Von Rob Hardy - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
We may be stewards of the Earth, and responsible for its care, but we aren't qualified for the job, for we just don't know enough about what we are supposed to be doing. There are plenty of arenas that would show this to be true, and Andrew Nikiforuk has latched on to an important one. He's a journalist who has written about ecological issues before, notably about plagues and scourges. His current book is _Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America's Great Forests_ (Greystone Books), and it is an eye-opener, not just about how much damage bark beetles are doing but on how much humans have laid the table for the bugs' banquet. The whole episode ought to instruct us on how to do things better, and there are lessons which Nikiforuk includes, if those who are in position to manage decisions about the forests are listening.

Climate change is happening; it is peculiar that there has been such a willingness to deny it for decades, but even skeptics are having to acknowledge that the globe is warming. The bark beetles described in Nikiforuk's book have always chomped on trees, but the warming in Alaska and Canada made it easier for them. The heat stressed the trees by making them too thirsty, and it enabled the beetles to mature in one year rather than two. These are not bugs that are big or fancy looking; they are nondescript brown characters and they are about as big as a grain of rice. They do their damage by their numbers, and they are currently playing the numbers game very well. Besides the warming, the beetles have profited by fire suppression. Trees on fire mean loss of logging income, or loss of a healthy green vista, so we deemed fires bad, when actually they have played a role in the long-term survival of forests. The fires would have made the forests less uniform (and one of the big lessons here is that artificially uniformed environments can be expected to have big crashes), and would, of course, have depleted the beetle population. Thirty billion trees, entire forests have been lost. It is not so simple, though, as a loss to the lumber industry or to people who appreciate a healthy mountain landscape. We do not know all the links affected by the forest die-off, but biologists can see that birds which don't use trees for nesting are thriving while woodpeckers are starving. Moose, which browse on trees, are in decline. Red squirrels don't have homes anymore. The snows melt faster in the spring because the shade is gone, and while the trees used to sop up water from the ground, they are no longer there to do so, and this changes the flows of streams and possibly hazards salmon. We are not close to understanding what all the repercussions of the lost forests will be.

_Empire of the Beetle_ has ten linked chapters, all clearly written and none of them tinged with any sort of hysteria. There is not a lot of optimism here, though Nikiforuk shows how artists have responded to the devastation. This may have a surprising link to beetle control. An avant-garde composer used a gadget made of a meat thermometer and a transducer from a singing greeting card to record beetles singing within the trees they infested. The beetles have a society, and besides lots of olfactory cues, they send out sounds by rubbing body parts together. The composer made a CD of beetle sounds, but even more interesting, when he teamed up with entomologists, they were able scramble the sounds and drive the beetles crazy, even to cannibalism. It might be a new, toxin-free way of controlling the pests, but even if it is successful, it has come too late to save vast acreages of forest which may never recover. It's a sad story, and it is only sad because instead of accepting the beetle as a natural forest manager, lumbermen and politicians and even conservationists thought of the beetle as the enemy of the forests. They should have looked to themselves.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
"Now is a time of great and extensive turbulence." 25. März 2012
Von WILLIAM H FULLER - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
EMPIRE OF THE BEETLE provides, in my view, a rather enticing panoramic view of the spread, impact and consequence of beetle infestation of North American conifer forests. Speaking as a general reader whose knowledge of entomology and forest ecology is that of an interested amateur, reading this book left me with a better understanding of the phenomenon of beetle infestation, which is neither new nor unprecedented.

I came away from Nikiforuk's exploration of the topic with an appreciation of the fact that beetle infestation is a natural occurrence that, as with naturally occurring fire, helps maintain the long term health of the forest (although we humans are so short lived that we view the natural thinning of forests as disasters), and that there is precious little we can do to deter the destruction of our conifers by these tiny critters. In fact, the author maintains that many of our efforts are more detrimental than beneficial to the very forests that we are trying to save.

Much of what Nikiforuk has to say is, I would think, fairly common knowledge: that the human urge to suppress forest fires has resulted in overgrown, uniform forests and that these are particularly susceptible to "correction" by some other natural agency--such as bark beetles, and that the climate change the earth is noticeably experiencing is enhancing the ability of beetles to reproduce and spread more rapidly than they otherwise would. To his credit, the author does not diverge from his topic into a debate as to whether or not human activity is behind the current global climate change; he merely acknowledges the fact that average temperatures are indeed increasing, a fact that empirical observation has already thoroughly verified.

Nikiforuk offers us no silver bullet to halt the spread of bark beetles through the conifer forests on the North American continent, for none has been found. He does intrigue the reader with quite a few unusual facts about these beetles, including, for example, their ability to communicate with one another, their "musical" emanations from within the trees they inhabit, and something of their impact on human culture and ornamentation. If one has never looked into the etymology of the American "ladybug," then he is in for a surprising treat as Nikiforuk reveals the Christian mythology behind that name.

Pretty much all that I have observed about this book so far has sounded rather positive, so why have I not given it a higher rating in Amazon's "star system"? The primary reason is that I am not fully convinced of the depth of the author's research into his topic. The book seems to be replete with anecdotal evidence and argumentation but is rather lacking in scientific rigor. Nikiforuk is identified in his book as a journalist, and he has understandably written as a journalist, relying to a great extent on interviews and secondary source material. On one hand, this approach has likely resulted in a more readable book that is understandable to the general reader; on the other, however, it has resulted in a book that is not supported by its writer's own scientific research. True, there is a fairly comprehensive listing of sources and "suggestions for further reading" in the back, but the lack of footnotes or in-text citations makes identifying the specific source of any particular statement pretty much impossible.

More to the point here, perhaps, is that I found the book somewhat lacking in direction and organization. The discussion appears to weave in and out of various forests, time frames, and beetle species. Several times I just wasn't sure where we (the author and the reader) were heading. I felt as though Nikiforuk wrote as examples occurred to him rather than having a clear plan for the structure of the book.

The topic is significant and timely, and the title is marvelous--five stars for both. The development of the topic, on the other hand, could have stood some improvement. There is one small, final quibble as well, and that is the author's use of slang and profanity in a few places in the text. There is most assuredly a place for slang, profanity and blasphemy in literature, but I can see no justification for their use in a book attempting to deal objectively with a natural phenomenon. Their appearance weakens the author's credibility.

Even with the weaknesses that I have noted, however, EMPIRE OF THE BEETLE is informative for the general reader. I have no qualms recommending it to anyone desiring a broader view and more comprehensive understanding of the changes occurring in the 21st century forests of the United States and Canada. As Nikiforuk, quoting C. S. Holling, notes on page 202, "Now is a time of great and extensive turbulence."
7 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Missed opportunity for fact-based debate 9. März 2012
Von SilviMike - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
A potential reader of "Empire of the Beetle" is faced with at least 3 problems: 1) it gets several facts wrong, 2) it omits critical parts of the discussion about the topic, 3) it ignores opinions and research that conflict with the author.

1. Examples of factual errors: a) Far from being "near clones," the western and mountain pine beetle have dramatically different biological and ecological functions. Google "Forest Service FIDL" for a wealth of basic information on these and other beetles. b) Edward Abbey was a great journalist, seasonal park ranger, and fire lookout but his professional experience in forests would not lead most people to consider him a "forest ranger." c) The boll weevil did not "mortally wound the US cotton economy" after the Civil War. Currently about 4 times as many bales are produced in the U.S. than in 1860.

2. The author omits key aspects of the "empire." For example, a discussion of the ecology of the forests, their disturbance cycles, and the role of beetles in those cycles is missing. As a result, readers of this book will be unable to answer such questions as: How did the 80+ year old forests on which epidemic bark beetle populations begin, build, thrive, and crash get here? What was the historic (pre-European settlement) relationship between the susceptible trees, the beetle, and other disturbances like fire and wind? Are there natural cycles of which beetles are a part? Why do beetle epidemics not build in young forests? This book shines no light on these fascinating issues and yet the ecology of the diverse landscapes in which the beetles play a role is critical to understanding the "empire of the beetle."

Additional questions not addressed in this book include: How have forests today changed as a result of past infestations? What will they look like in the future? Bark beetles have been killing trees for thousands of years. What do the over 5 million acres of forest that were killed by the mountain pine beetle in the 1980s look like today? How should things be in the future? Who should decide what actions should or should not be taken?

Notably absent from this book are the professional views and results of scientific inquiry that conflict with those of the author. Want a summary of scientific understanding of one beetle? Google "The Mountain Pine Beetle: A Synthesis of Biology, Management, and Impacts on Lodgepole Pine." or "Role of the Mountain Pine Beetle in Lodgepole Pine Ecosystems: Impact on Succession." Such publications are not nearly as entertaining, but they are written by people who have studied this topic for decades and present science that is just as fascinating as the stories by this journalist.

While some people have argued that "climate change triggered" the mountain pine beetle epidemics of the past 30 years, there is substantial evidence in a variety of ecosystems that dramatic bark beetle population increases are predicted quite well by aging forests and increasing forest stand density. The debate surrounding such "cause and effect" relationships has been the heart of the inquiry into beetles in ecosystems for many years and yet is absent from this book.

Note the absence of reviews on the back cover by forest entomologists, forest ecologists, fire ecologists, and foresters. Note how many are the opinions of other journalists and authors. This book provides several entertaining stories and opinions but a very distorted window on "the empire of the beetle."

If you lack knowledge from other sources, this book will give you an understanding of beetles and forests similar to the understanding of evolution that you would have after reading a book by an advocate of creation science. Dynamic disturbance regimes like beetles in forest ecosystems and the human response to them are fascinating. Unfortunately this book does little to advance knowledge or constructive dialogue that will enlighten people for understanding them into the future.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Readable and Diverse look at the Mt Pine Beetle and its life in North America 12. Februar 2013
Von Kay Lindekugel - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
As a layperson reader for Beetle books I found plenty of chapters to enjoy: that is to say there is something for everyone who has an interest in the beetle invasions in North America. It is easy to think your region is the only one suffering and fighting and fearing the results of the BUGS. Here you get some perspective and some ideas of how the beetles are managed or not in different places. There's a great "sources and further reading" section. And my favorite quote is on page 118 it begins, "we should never look at a landscape as being etched in stone.." (Les Safranyik). This book is a good mix of data and creative response to the "storm" or war in the forest. Recommended reading for folks trying to get a grip on the changing landscape and the orange trees.
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