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Does Thinning Affect Gypsy Moth Dynamics?

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In northeastern U.S. forests there is considerable variation in susceptibility (defoliation potential) and vulnerability (tree mortality) to gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar [L.]). Thinning has been suggested as a way to reduce susceptibility and/or vulnerability. We evaluated how thinning affected the dynamics of gypsy moth populations by experimentally thinning half of each of eight oak-mixed hardwood stands in the Central Appalachians. Population dynamics of gypsy moth were monitored using yearly counts of egg masses, numbers of larvae hatching per mass, estimates of larval density, and weekly collections of larvae and pupae which were reared to quantify mortality due to parasitoids and disease. During the 8 yr study, three stands were heavily defoliated by outbreak populations of gypsy moth, three were sprayed with pesticides accidentally, and two were not disturbed. Egg-mass densities were slightly lower in the thinned portions of the undisturbed stands, but thinning had little or no effect on gypsy moth densities in defoliated and sprayed stands. Variation in mortality of gypsy moth caused by parasitoids and disease was related to variation in egg-mass densities in the current and/or preceding years. After adjusting for the effect of gypsy moth density, thinning had no significant effect on mortality from parasitoids or pathogens. We conclude that any reduction in egg mass densities as a result of thinning is likely related to the reduction in foliar biomass, not increased natural enemy activity. For. Sci. 44(2):239-245.

Keywords: Lymantria dispar; disease; parasitism; silviculture; survivorship

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, 180 Canfield St., Morgantown, WV 26505

Publication date: May 1, 1998

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