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A Retrospective Assessment of Partial Cutting to Reduce Spruce Beetle-Caused Mortality in the Southern Rocky Mountains

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Tree susceptibility to bark beetle-caused mortality has been linked to stand characteristics such as basal area (BA) and average tree size, factors that can be manipulated through partial cutting. There is no experimental evidence, however, demonstrating the efficacy of partial cutting in spruce type. Such experiments are very difficult to complete because of the inability to manipulate bark beetle populations needed to challenge treated stands. To circumvent this difficulty, we identified spruce stands that were partially cut (for nonexperimental reasons) in advance of beetle activity and compared beetle-caused mortality to that in nearby spruce stands that were not treated. Treated stands had fewer infested stems and less infested BA than untreated stands, as well as smaller proportions of infested stems and BA. Untreated stands, however, had more residual spruce stems and BA than treated stands. Most of this difference was among stems 3‐11 in. dbh with little difference in survivorship among larger stems. Spruce regeneration was not significantly different among treated and untreated stands. Spruce stand density index, spruce BA, and the number of spruce stems >11 in. dbh were the stand variables most strongly correlated with host mortality measurements. Insect population pressure appears to influence the degree of protection to residual spruce following partial cutting.
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Keywords: Dendroctonus rufipennis; Engelmann spruce; bark beetle management; thinning; vegetation management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-04-01

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