Bark beetle outbreak – report from the Baltics

This year saw bark beetle mass outbreaks across Germany and Central Europe leading to massive damage to the forests and drop in timber prices. A lot of our clients have been asking if this is a concern in the Baltics as well.
The spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus), which is causing the problems in Central Europe, is also present in the Baltics. HD Forest has comprised the following review of monitoring results in Latvia and Lithuania. 
Lithuania (State Forest Service):
  • Population monitoring showed a decrease of approx. 11% in the Ips typhographus in 2019 compared to 2018 on a national level.
  • First generation of the beetles in May and June were in average 2% less than in 2018. Second generation in July/ August had about 35% less beetles than in 2018. 
  • Prienai and Trakai regions between Vilnius and Kaunas were the most affected areas.
Latvia (Forest Research Centre):
  • Overall observations showed about double the number of bark beetles in 2019 compared to 2018 but with very significant geographical differences.
  • Main populations were in the Central-Northern part of the country around Gauja National Park and north of this. In most other areas, the population was less in 2019 than in 2018.  
  • The increase was mainly due to a larger than normal first generation in May/June, whereas the second generation in July/ August was at a similar level as in 2018.
  • Despite the increase from 2018, the beetle population in 2019 was only about 1/3 of the level in 2005 where significant storm damage led to the most recent peak in the bark beetle population 
We have not been able to find any research on the status in Estonia. Researchers have, however, informed that this year’s second generation of beetles was significantly less than what has been the average in previous years. 
In general, the research institutions report that no major damage from bark beetles has been observed in 2019. Our own observations support this. We do not see the same massive beetle damage in the Baltics as has been the case in parts of Germany and Central Europe this year.
Mixed forests are less sensitive
In our view, the main reason for this is the different forest types in the Baltics compared to those of large parts of Germany and Central Europe. The mixed forest in the Baltics is an effective limitation to the mass outbreaks of beetle populations which are seen in plantation forestry. The mixed forest is also less sensitive to droughts as different species have different levels of tolerance towards droughts.
Bark beetle populations are continuously being monitored. If a forest stand is significantly infected, the remedy is to harvest the damaged trees as soon as possible and get them out of the forest to the sawmill, before the timber is damaged and the beetle gets a chance to spread into other stands.  

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