Forest Stand Responses to Defoliation by the Gypsy Moth

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Records accumulated between 1911 and 1931 from a series of plots in eastern New England were analyzed to determine some of the changes in the forest that followed heavy and repeated defoliation by the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar (L.). Oak trees required about 10 years to recover totally from a single heavy defoliation. Dominant trees were degraded less than subdominants and were less likely to die. Trees rated in poor condition were more likely to die after defoliation than those rated good. Tree species not favored as food by the insects were more likely to die after heavy defoliation than oak trees. Red maple, Acer rubrum (L.), was more likely to be killed by one heavy defoliation than white pine, Pinus strobus (L.). When defoliation, overall, was low, nearly all of it occurred on favored-food trees, but the insects became less selective as overall defoliation increased. Heavy and repeated defoliation resulted in more and more one-storied stands. For two reasons, heavy defoliation and subsequent tree mortality tended to reduce the susceptibility of the residual stand to further defoliation. First, differential loss rates among favored- and nonfavored-food species tended to alter forest composition toward less-susceptible types. Second, certain trees within any given tree species were consistently defoliated more heavily than others. These trees were also more likely to die.

Keywords: Lymantria dispar; acer; basal area; defoliation potential; dominance; food class; intraspecific susceptibility; pinus; quercus; stand susceptibility; succession; tree condition; tree mortality

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Research Associate, State University of New York College of Environmental Science of Forestry at Syracuse

Publication date: June 1, 1977

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