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Interactions among the Mountain Pine Beetle, Fires, and Fuels

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Bark beetle outbreaks and wildfires are principal drivers of change in western North American forests, and both have increased in severity and extent in recent years. These two agents of disturbance interact in complex ways to shape forest structure and composition. For example, mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, epidemics alter forest fuels with consequences for the frequency and intensity of wildfires and, conversely, fire injury to trees can promote bark beetle attack and increase beetle populations. Given the great influence these processes have on forest ecosystems, a better understanding of how bark beetles and fires interact is needed to better manage forests and to predict and manage wildfires. Here we review current knowledge on how fire and bark beetles interact, focusing on the mountain pine beetle. We highlight research on how fuel reduction treatments and wildfires affect bark beetles and how bark beetles can affect wildfires by modifying the moisture content, chemistry, and structure of fuels. Last, we discuss the implications these findings have for fire management and firefighter safety.
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Keywords: Dendroctonus; bark beetles; disturbance; fire behavior; flammability

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-06-01

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    Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
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    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

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