Density-dependent population dynamics of mountain pine beetle in thinned and unthinned stands

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Thinning, the selective removal of some trees from a forest, is one way forest managers can reduce the probability that a forest will be susceptible to attack by bark beetles. Although this method has been shown to be effective, it is not clear whether the effect arises when pre-outbreak populations are small or during the epidemic phase when outbreaks are growing. We adopted a population dynamics approach to determine if the effect of limit or basal area thinning could be observed in the form of differential beetle recruitment using lodgepole pine ( Pinus contorta Dougl. ex Loud.) and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex P. & C. Laws.) mortality data from previously published studies as a proxy measure of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) population size. We found that mountain pine beetle populations exhibit density-dependent population dynamics that are influenced by the silvicultural history of their host’s stand. Thinning did not change the epidemic equilibrium but instead caused a shift in dynamics from linear to nonlinear. In a validation test, the models developed for thinned and unthinned stands predicted reproductive rates in independent locations. These data also suggest the epidemic dynamics of mountain pine beetle may be sensitive to perturbations and to systematic trends associated with climate variability and climate change.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 28, 2011

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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