A soldier cuts logs from trees affected by a southern pine beetle (Dentroctomus frontalis) plague in a forested area in Talanga on 9 November 2015. Photo: Orlando Sierra / AFP

By Karen Graham    
3 December 2015

(Digital Journal) – The southern pine bark beetle is a tenacious critter, native to the forests of the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. While it's always been present in Honduran forests, climate change has vastly increased the beetle's numbers.

The sudden explosion of southern pine beetles this year in Honduras is being blamed on a warming climate by some scientists, but to the 350 soldiers of the First Artillery Battalion in Zambrano province, just north of the Honduran capital, the war they are fighting against the tree-munching bug is an effort in futility.

Even as the COP21 climate meeting in Paris is winding down, the world has been warned that Honduras, along with Myanmar and Haiti, is at the top of the list of countries hardest hit by threats from global warming. The 2016 Global Climate Risk Index, produced by the advocacy group Germanwatch, says Honduras has been hit particularly hard, with floods, storms and landslides in the past 20 years.

This year, the strongest El Niño ever recorded has brought drought to the region causing a six-fold increase in the beetles. Southern pine beetles have already destroyed 400,000 hectares (one million acres) of pine forest, about one-quarter of the country's primary forest cover.

Because Honduras is such a bio-diverse country, experts are calling the beetle infestation an "ecological catastrophe." Military adviser Lucky Medina said, “This plague will leave us with just half the pine trees in Honduras — if we’re lucky." [more]

Honduras has 'ecological catastrophe' with Southern pine beetle

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