Overshoot in Leaf Development of Ponderosa Pine in Wet Years Leads to Bark Beetle Outbreaks on Fine-Textured Soils in Drier Years

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Wendy L Peterman and Richard H Waring, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States
Frequent outbreaks of insects and diseases have been recorded in forests of western North America during the past few decades, but the distribution of these outbreaks has not been uniform. In some cases, recent climatic variations along with the age and density of forests may explain some spatial variation. Forest managers and policy makers would benefit if areas prone to disturbance could be recognized so that mitigating actions could be taken. In this paper, we used two ponderosa pine-dominated sites in western Montana, U.S.A. to apply a modelling approach that couples information from remote sensing, soil surveys, and local weather stations to assess where bark beetle outbreaks might first occur and why. There was a slight downward trend in precipitation for both sites over the period between 1998 and 2010, and, interannual variability was high. Some years showed large increases followed by sharp decreases. Both sites had similar topography and fire histories, but bark beetle activity occurred earlier and more severely on one site than the other. The initial canopy density of the two sites was also similar, with leaf area indices derived via Landsat imagery ranging between 1.6- 2.0 m2 m-2. We wondered if the difference in bark beetle activity might be related to soils that were fine-textured at site I and coarse-textured at site II. We applied a process-based stand growth model (3-PG) to analyze the data and evaluate the hypotheses.