JOURNAL ARTICLE

Mountain Pine Beetle Dynamics and Reproductive Success in Post-Fire Lodgepole and Ponderosa Pine Forests in Northeastern Utah

Andrew P Lerch, Jesse A Pfammatter, Barbara J Bentz, Kenneth F Raffa
PloS One 2016, 11 (10): e0164738
27783632
Fire injury can increase tree susceptibility to some bark beetles (Curculionidae, Scolytinae), but whether wildfires can trigger outbreaks of species such as mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) is not well understood. We monitored 1173 lodgepole (Pinus contorta var. latifolia Doug.) and 599 ponderosa (Pinus ponderosa Doug. ex Law) pines for three years post-wildfire in the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah in an area with locally endemic mountain pine beetle. We examined how the degree and type of fire injury influenced beetle attacks, brood production, and subsequent tree mortality, and related these to beetle population changes over time. Mountain pine beetle population levels were high the first two post-fire years in lodgepole pine, and then declined. In ponderosa pine, populations declined each year after initial post-fire sampling. Compared to trees with strip or failed attacks, mass attacks occurred on trees with greater fire injury, in both species. Overall, a higher degree of damage to crowns and boles was associated with higher attack rates in ponderosa pines, but additional injury was more likely to decrease attack rates in lodgepole pines. In lodgepole pine, attacks were initially concentrated on fire-injured trees, but during subsequent years beetles attacked substantial numbers of uninjured trees. In ponderosa pine, attacks were primarily on injured trees each year, although these stands were more heavily burned and had few uninjured trees. In total, 46% of all lodgepole and 56% of ponderosa pines underwent some degree of attack. Adult brood emergence within caged bole sections decreased with increasing bole char in lodgepole pine but increased in ponderosa pine, however these relationships did not scale to whole trees. Mountain pine beetle populations in both tree species four years post-fire were substantially lower than the year after fire, and wildfire did not result in population outbreaks.

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