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Management response to one insect pest may increase vulnerability to another

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1. Large-scale insect outbreaks provide an ideal system to examine the cascade of ecological effects of disturbance regimes across forested landscapes. A major outbreak of the mountain pine beetle Dendroctonus ponderosae continues to exert landscape-level mortality across forests of lodgepole pine Pinus contorta var. latifolia. in western Canada. This outbreak, exacerbated in part by fire suppression and climate change, has affected more than 14 million ha of merchantable forest. Salvage and reforestation efforts are currently underway at landscape-level scales. An emerging concern is the migration of Warren root collar weevil Hylobius warreni from stands with a reduced host pool, i.e. those with a high per cent of mature, dead lodgepole pine, into young, replanted stands, resulting in significant levels of mortality to juvenile trees.

2. The impact of Warren root collar weevil in stands of young trees (9–11 years of age) replanted after salvage harvesting was examined in nine cutblocks (areas delineated for commercial timber harvest, c. 1 km in diameter). All cutblocks, sampled across the central interior of British Columbia, were located next to unsalvaged, mature stands.

3. Field data and aerial surveys revealed higher tree mortality from Warren root collar weevils along cutblock perimeters adjacent to unsalvaged, mature stands. Mortality decreased with increasing distance from the edge of the cutblocks. Additional mortality along these gradients was associated with increasing per cent of pine in the mature stand; more-so if the pine was dead. Moreover, the gradient of mortality became more pronounced with time as mountain pine beetle had attacked the adjacent mature stands. Weevils attacked the largest trees within the replanted cutblocks.

4. These gradients of tree mortality suggest migration of Warren root collar weevils from unsalvaged mature stands into adjacent replanted forests most probably in search of food.

5.Synthesis and applications. This study demonstrates how a management response to a large insect outbreak, itself mediated by anthropogenic factors, can predispose reforested stands to additional, unanticipated threats from other insects. Reforestation strategies following outbreaks of mountain pine beetle may need to include harvesting larger salvage blocks to minimize edge effects and reduce mortality from Warren root collar weevils. Moreover, the inclusion of deciduous non-host tree stock in planting mixes might reduce insect movement and limit tree mortality because of Warren root collar weevils.
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Keywords: Dendroctonus ponderosae; Hylobius warreni; Pinus contorta; bark beetles; below-ground herbivory; disturbance agents; landscape disturbance; lodgepole pine; root feeding; root girdling

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, University of Northern British Columbia

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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