Hot, dry summers are fanning an unprecedented outbreak of bark beetles that are destroying vast swathes of central Europe’s spruce forests which define the region’s landscape.
Draught brought on by climate change has weakened trees’ natural defences and helped spawn the insects, creating an infestation that has forced landowners to chop down broad patches of forest across the Czech Republic, northern Austria, Bavaria and Slovakia.
While the bark beetle is natural to conifer forests and has a role in their ecosystem, climate change has helped it spread especially through single-variety spruce woods planted over the past two centuries.
The Czech Republic has been worst hit. Last year, the beetle infested 18 million cubic metres of spruce, more than 10 times amounts seen in most previous years, according to Agriculture Ministry estimates.