Huge swaths of the Rocky Mountain landscape is being transformed as the region's signature tree, the aspen, goes into rapid decline, reports the Smithsonian. Climate change and surging population of the bark beetle is causing the grim phenomenon known as SAD (sudden aspen decline). The beetle is a mere twelfth-of-an-inch long but is capable, en masse, of cutting off trees’ nutrient supply.
SAD is spurred by the region’s extreme drought and high temperatures—symptoms of global warming—which have weakened the trees, allowing more disease and insect attacks. “They basically starve to death,” explained a scientist. If the sudden bark beetle influx remains a mystery, climate change is “the common theme that’s hitting everybody in the face," said an ecologist at the University of Colorado,