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Is there a higher risk for herbivore outbreaks after cold mast years? An analysis of two plant/herbivore series from southern Norway

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Historical data on two plant-herbivore interactions from southern Norway were used to test the hypothesis that the degree of herbivore outbreaks in post-mast years is negatively related to summer temperatures in the mast year, because plants are more depressed after a high seed production if temperatures and thus the photosynthetic activity is low. The plant species were the sessile oak Quercus petraea and the bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus. For the former species post-mast years were identified from reports given by the local forest authorities for the period 1930–48, and from acorn export curves for the period 1949–98. For the latter species, post-mast years were identified mainly from bilberry export curves for the period 1920–31, from game reports for the period 1932–78, and from diary notes for the period 1979–87. The herbivore species used were the green oak leaf roller moth Tortrix viridana and the capercaillie Tetrao urogallus. Eight moth outbreaks on oak forests were reported by the forest authorities in the period 1930–98, and they all started in a post-mast year of the sessile oak. There were however also eleven post-mast years without moth outbreaks. According to game reports, observations and autumn counts, all increases in the autumn population size of capercaillie during 1920–88 occurred in or after a year with high bilberry production. Among 18 post-mast years, there were seven with strong increase, seven with slight or moderate increase, and four with no increase. For both herbivore species, post-mast years with marked population increases had significantly lower summer temperatures in the preceding (mast) year than had post-mast years with no or slight increases. For moth populations there also was a negative effect of high temperatures in April, possibly because moth eggs tend to hatch too early relative to budburst if spring temperatures are high. For the capercaillie, high amount of precipitation in June–July seemed to have some negative impact on the autumn population sizes, as also found in previous studies.

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Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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