The forest areas of La Malinche National Park, between Puebla and Tlaxcala, are decreasing, due to the fact that the vegetation is being lost on account to various factors, among them: climate changes, the bark beetle plague and fires.
In an interview for Poblanerías.com, Carlos Gilberto Pacheco Montiel, agronomist and member of Grupo Matlalcueye Comunidades Unidas (a local NGO), said that groups are working to determine the causes of the pest and to prevent it from spreading to other sites.
He explained that Mexican forests have been affected for years due to the increase in temperatures, as well as the decrease in rainfall, which causes the areas to weaken and that is where the insects become "active" and begin to reproduce faster, because their function is to attack the trees to transform them into organic matter that serves as food for other trees.
"The bark beetle is an endemic insect of Mexican forests, so it should not be demonized. It is nature's natural sericulturist. When the trees are weak, the insect becomes active and attacks them and reincorporates them into the natural cycle, and converts them into sawdust or organic material to nourish more trees," he says.
In 2016, the first reports of outbreaks of this insect were presented; however, Carlos Gilberto considers that they were not attended in an ideal way, so they multiplied and this makes it difficult to combat them.
It is important to mention that this is not an invasive specie, although its functions do cause forest areas to decrease in various forested regions of the world.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the beetle - which measures around five millimeters - makes a hole in the tree trunk, between the bark and the wood, in order to deposit its eggs, which then transform into larvae and feed on the nutrients of the tree.
Subsequently, it introduces a fungus into the tree, which prevents the circulation of water and nutrients between the roots and leaves, causing the loss of the specimen, leaving it lifeless and with no chance of being saved.
In this regard, the latest report on early warning and risk assessment for bark stripping insects, issued in October 2021 by the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), indicates that the state of Puebla is at very high risk for this cause.
The area of La Malinche was declared National Park on October 6, 1938, to protect it from encroachment and clearing for agriculture and grazing; and before the loss of habitat of several wild species due to the arrival of the railroad.
There are more causes of loss
Although the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) indicates that the bark stripper is the second agent that causes the greatest disturbance in Mexican forests, the first one is forest fires.
Carlos Gilberto explains that there are also other factors, such as the fact that the population spreads, because sometimes there are those who occupy territory and "a tree gets in the way", so they remove them and the perimeter of the forest decreases.
"There are many factors, but in recent years, what has affected the most is both logging, forest fires, and in this last year, the bark beetle plague", he acknowledges.
In the area of La Malinche National Park, classified as a Natural Protected Area, between January and March 2021, 137 fires were recorded, affecting 332 areas, according to data from the General Coordination of Ecology (CGE) of the state of Tlaxcala.
In this regard, Carlos adds that in early 2020 an affectation of between 300 and 500 hectares was recorded, and in the middle of that same year around 1,500 hectares damaged were reported. Thus, in 12 months they totaled approximately three thousand, according to a monitoring with satellite images they conducted, as well as field tours.
He reiterates that the above data are an estimate, because sometimes the ravages of damage generated by pests are not immediately seen, as they take time to cause the trees to die.
How to help?
For the conservation of this type of areas, it is essential the participation of the citizenship to avoid that the area continues to be affected, so you can participate in various actions in their favor.
"It is important that we all support, from helping us to monitor and report where we start to see dry or diseased trees, so that we can attend to them faster, or in the reforestations that we do constantly," says Carlos.
The actions to be taken into account are:
- Report fires or the presence of smoke to the emergency number (911) or to CONAFOR at 800 462 3634.
- Avoid making bonfires in wooded areas, especially because sometimes they are not extinguished 100% and this generates fires.
- Participate in reforestations and relief irrigations, whether organized by the public or private sector.
Translation by: Karla Giselle Bonales Ramírez