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Effects of Western Balsam Bark Beetle on Spruce-Fir Forests of North-Central Wyoming

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Western balsam bark beetle, Dryocoetes confusus (Coleoptera: Scolytidae), has caused widespread mortality of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) in western North America throughout the past decade. The objectives of this study were to document the effects of this mortality, relate mortality to pre-existing stand conditions, and investigate the role of storm-damaged fir in beetle population dynamics in north-central Wyoming. Transect cruise lines and pairs of infested and uninfested plots were installed to detect changes in the forest overstory and understory and to determine associations between stand conditions and beetle-caused fir mortality. On average, beetles killed more than 70 trees/ac over the last several years. This mortality resulted in significant decreases in: subalpine fir basal area, trees per acre, stand density index, and the percentage of subalpine fir stems in the overstory. Small, but significant increases were detected in the understory; herbaceous plant abundance increased in the infested plots compared with the noninfested plots. Moreover, significant positive linear relationships were found between the amount of fir mortality and the percentage of subalpine fir trees in a stand, subalpine fir basal area, and subalpine fir stand density index. In addition, a significant positive linear relationship was found between the percentage of wind-caused downed fir logs in an area and the percentage of logs utilized by western balsam bark beetle. The blowdown events that occurred in the mid-1990s in combination with a high percentage of fir component has provided ideal conditions for continued beetle expansion. West. J. Appl. For. 18(4):259–266.

Keywords: Bark beetles; Dryocoetes confusus; Scolytidae; environmental management; forest; forest dynamics; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; insect impact; natural resource management; natural resources

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Forest Health Management, USDA Forest Service, Rapid City, SD, 57702, 2: Forest Health Management, USDA Forest Service, Lakewood, CO, 80225, 3: Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Ft. Collins, CO, 80256,

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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