Response of aspen stands to forest tent caterpillar defoliation and subsequent overstory mortality in northeastern Ontario, Canada
Forest Ecology and Management
Overstory mortality, understory tree recruitment, and vegetation development were assessed in trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) stands following two recent episodes of forest tent caterpillar defoliation (Malacosoma disstria Hbn.) in northeastern Ontario. The results suggest that poplar (aspen and balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera L.)) mortality increased with consecutive years of insect defoliation occurring from the mid-1980s to mid-2000s and the proportion of poplars in the overstory, but decreased with improved pre-defoliation tree vigour (DBH increment). The first outbreak, which lasted from the mid-1980s to early 1990s, was more severe in terms of insect defoliation and contributed more to poplar mortality and decline. The decline began in the late 1990s and peaked in early 2000s. Poplar regeneration and understory shrubs responded rapidly to foliage loss to insect defoliation and mortality of overstory poplars. The regenerated poplars were able to maintain their growth under developing shrubs and residual overstory canopy and numbers were sufficient to compensate for the poplar trees lost to insect infestation. The defoliation-induced overstory decline will accelerate the transition of aspen stands to conifer dominance through enhanced conifer recruitment and growth, and reduced hardwood overstory in aspen-dominated stands, while hardwood dominance will persist in pure aspen stands. From a timber supply perspective, the decline caused by forest tent caterpillar defoliation could delay the availability of aspen stands for harvesting by 40–50 years.
Man, Rongzhou and Rice, James A. 2010. Response of aspen stands o forest tent caterpillar defoliation and subsequent overstory mortality in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Forest Ecology and Management. 260(10): 1853-1860.