NEW YORK, May 2 (UPI) -- Climate change increases the risk to European spruce forests from destructive bark beetles because of rising temperatures and less rainfall, researchers say.
Writing in the journal Climatic Change, scientists say low rainfall and warmer temperatures weakened the trees' defenses against the bark beetle.
In addition, dry conditions have encouraged the bark beetle to extend its range by moving to higher altitudes, Lorenzo Marini from the University of Padua in Italy said.
The low rainfall at those higher altitudes gave the beetles new opportunities to find suitable, weaker host trees which, under normal rainfall conditions, would have been less susceptible to bark beetle attacks, researchers said.
The spruce bark beetle, Ips typographys, is one of the most destructive pests of the European forests, and scientists said they expected the insects to quickly respond to climate change.
Forest damage due to this bark beetle has increased markedly during the last decades throughout the whole of Europe, they said.