Explanations of a changing landscape: A critical examination of the British Columbia bark beetle epidemic

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17 Scopus citations


This paper focuses on an unprecedented bark beetle epidemic in British Columbia, Canada. The epidemic has killed vast areas of forests, with significant impacts to ecosystems and timber-dependent communities. Explanations of this outbreak continue to overlook or underemphasize important actors and relationships. This paper offers a more detailed explanation of the actors and processes involved in the outbreak and associated responses. Political ecology was applied to guide this analysis, emphasizing both the ecological and social factors involved. Research methods entailed an extensive literature review and over seventy interviews with scientists, policy makers, land managers, and elected officials. Findings illustrate how the outbreak involved many actors, beyond bark beetles and trees, and resulted from complex interactions between ecological and social factors. This study also reveals how actors that prioritized short-term economic gains shaped the conditions that fostered the outbreak and continue to constrain responses. This study illustrates how applications of political ecology that give increased attention to ecology are necessary to fully understand the drivers of environmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)598-613
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • British Columbia
  • Forest management
  • Mountain pine beetles
  • Political ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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