Pine beetle invasions guarded some Colorado streams from nitrate pollution

By on January 20, 2013

A study led by the University of Colorado indicates invasive species may provide some unforeseen benefits, according to a release. The researchers say pine beetle infestations, while still destroying large pine trees, were found to help reduce nitrate pollution in streams. Agricultural runoff is the chief cause of nitrate pollution.

Smaller trees and plants that survived the beetle invasions were found to compensate for the loss of their larger counterparts by taking in more nitrates from surrounding ecosystems.

While logging or damaging storms can increase the nitrate concentration in streams by as much as 400 percent, the researchers found no large increase in nitrate levels following tree deaths caused by pine beetles.

The study was funded by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service.

Image: A pine forest showing damage from a pine beetle invasion (Credit: Themightyquill, via Wikimedia Commons)

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