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Dendrochronological reconstruction of spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana) outbreaks in southern Quebec for the last 400 years

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It is argued that spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana (Clemens)) (SBW) outbreaks have tended to be more frequent, severe, and spatially synchronized since the beginning of the 20th century. However, few studies have assessed the long-term (>200 years) variations in SBW outbreak dynamics. We reconstructed the SBW outbreak history at the northern limit of the temperate forest in southern Quebec using dendrochronological material from old buildings and five old-growth stands. Our regional tree-ring chronology (1551–1995) represents one of the longest and most replicated insect outbreak reconstructions in North America. Nine potential outbreaks were identified (1976–1991, 1946–1959, 1915–1929, 1872–1903, 1807–1817, 1754–1765, 1706–1717, 1664–1670, and 1630–1638) with three additional uncertain outbreaks (1647–1661, 1606–1619, and 1564–1578). Results suggested that southern Quebec has experienced frequent and synchronized outbreaks throughout the last 400 years. Although outbreak frequency was higher during the 20th century (approximately 30 years) as compared with the 1660–1850 period (approximately 50 years), similar or even higher outbreak frequency might have occurred prior to 1660 (approximately 28 years). We did not find any evidence that the recent outbreak dynamics in southern Quebec is outside its historical range of the last 400 years. Previous studies based on living trees may have underestimated outbreak frequency and synchrony prior to 1900.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Dendrolab, 1303 Boulevard La Morille, Québec City, QC G2K 2E8, Canada. 2: Chaire de Recherche sur la Forêt Habitée, Département de Biologie, Chimie et Géographie, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 300 Allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, QC G5L 3A1, Canada. 3: Centre d’Études sur la Forêt, Département des sciences fondamentales, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, 555 boul. de l’Université, Ville Saguenay, QC G7H 2B1, Canada. 4: Groupe de Recherche en Dendrodrochronologie Historique, Département d’Anthropologie, Université de Montréal, B.O. 6128, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada.

Publication date: 2012-07-01

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