The Southern Pine Beetle Plague: A Threat to Resilience and Livelihoods


Local partners and community members constructing firebreaks in Northern Honduras

EcoLogic works diligently with our local partner organizations to build resilience in rural communities through our solutions that protect both people and the planet. Yet, in addition to our ongoing work, there are situations that emerge  that demand urgent and immediate action. A current example of this is happening right now in Honduras, in what experts are rightfully calling this an ecological catastrophe. An abnormally severe outbreak of the southern pine beetle—Dendroctonus frontalis—is ravaging pine forests across the country. While this beetle has long been present in Honduran forests, climate change and its effects are causing more frequent and severe outbreaks.

The pine beetle attacks pine forests, particularly those that have been weakened by lightning or fires, or where there is high stand density. Once 20-30 pines are attacked, southern pine beetle infestations can spread rapidly if no control is applied. Under conditions of outbreak, the bark beetles can then kill healthy pines, too. The bark beetle develops within the bark of infested pines and new adults then fly in search of a new host.

In order to control the spread of the pine beetle plague, EcoLogic and its partners will continue implementing the strategy promoted by the Honduran Forest Conservation Institute (Instituto de Conservación Forestal, ICF), which advises to cut down infected trees as well as healthy trees within a 50 meter radius of infected areas (a distance which prevents adults from reaching new healthy pines). Given this necessary clearing of trees, reforestation of healthy trees and ongoing management are key components of the response. Firebreaks will continue to be built, along with controlled burning and removal of combustible matter, and the forests will be monitored by rangers.

The Honduran government has declared the situation a national emergency, given the beetle’s dramatic destruction of primary forest and the associated risk of wildfire. Critical forest habitats for Honduras’ notable biodiversity are disappearing at alarming rates. According to recent press reports, the pine beetle plague has destroyed about 1 million acres of pine forest, equivalent to one quarter of Honduras’ primary forest cover. Read that again, one quarter of Honduras’ primary forest cover. The situation demands immediate attention to both halt the spread of the plague and restore degraded areas to ensure the perseverance of wildlife, natural resources and rural communities.

The Honduran government launched a national response to the outbreak. Honduran military units were deployed to help combat the plague. While some of EcoLogic’s partner communities were reached by the national support provided, their work was short-term and communities were mostly left on their own to continue controlling the plague and manage its devastating impacts. Our local partners have worked tirelessly to combat the outbreak, but are in urgent need of additional resources in order to bring it to a halt and restore affected areas.

Local communities are keenly aware of the pine beetle plague and are eager to address it to save their forests, however, they are still without the resources they need. Without adequate equipment and personnel, the infestation will continue to spread and advance deforestation throughout the region.

EcoLogic field technicians and local partners are knowledgeable and experienced in effective reforestation methods, and are prepared to incorporate strategies recommended by the Honduran Forest Institute (ICF by its Spanish acronym) to combat the outbreak and protect reforested areas from infection and forest fires. We have identified critical areas within our project sites that require immediate reforestation, particularly in key watersheds and surrounding buffer zones. To protect restored areas from pine beetle infestation, EcoLogic and its partners plan to reforest with a variety of tree species, including Simarouba (bitterwood), Leucaena leucocephala (white popinac), Acacia amarilla (lebbeck), Cassia fistula (golden rain tree), Inga edulis (ice cream bean) and Albizia saman (monkey pod).


Measuring the width of firebreaks to ensure the containment of forest fires

However, EcoLogic and our partners—communities, local leaders, and civil society organizations that are forest-dependent, need more help to ensure our efforts are successful. This plan is time and labor intensive, and will require dedicated field staff to control and prevent outbreaks. The process of reforestation we will follow is key to addressing the impacts of the pine beetle plague, particularly for the restoration of critical habitats for forest-dwelling species. With your continued support we can address some important immediate needs.

We rarely do this in our eNews stories, as we want these articles to be informative and explanatory, but given the circumstances, we invite you to join us in taking action.

You can make a contribution that will help us comat this plague and assist this effort through our donation page. You can also share this article with friends, family, colleagues, and anyone in your network that may care so that they can take action, too!

Building partnerships to fortify the efforts of local people is our approach, and rural people in Honduras desperately need all the partners and commitments possible to help combat this devastating ecological outbreak.

You can help save Honduras’ forests!


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