Bark beetle outbreaks have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of conifers on approximately 30 million hectares of forested lands in western North America during the last decade. Many forests remain susceptible to bark beetle infestation and will continue to experience high levels of conifer mortality until suitable host trees are depleted, or natural factors cause populations to collapse. Stand conditions and drought, combined with warming temperatures, have contributed to the severity of these outbreaks, particularly in high-elevation forests.

Conventional wisdom suggests that large scale bark beetle outbreaks alter fuel complexes resulting in an increased potential for severe fires. Conversely, fires damage trees that may predispose them to bark beetle attack. In reality there is little specific quantified data supporting these assertions, and until recently, relationships between fire and western bark beetles in forests of North America have not been extensively studied. The magnitude of recent outbreaks and large wildfires has resulted in a flurry of research attempting to quantify bark beetle/fire/fuel interactions.
 
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2012

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Relationships between moisture, chemistry, and ignition of Pinus contorta needles during the early stages of mountain pine beetle attack, W. Matt Jolly, Russell A. Parsons, Ann M. Hadlow, Greg M. Cohn, Sara S. McAllister, John B. Popp, Robert M. Hubbard, and Jose F. Negron; Forest Ecology and Management

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Ecology Comments & Reply: Do mountain pine beetle outbreaks change the probability of active crown fire in lodgepole pine forests?, Christopher J. Moran, W. Matt Jolly, and Martin Simard; Ecology

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Mountain Pine Beetle Attack Alters the Chemistry and Flammability of Lodgepole Pine Foliage, Wesley G. Page, Michael J. Jenkins, and Justin B. Runyon; Canadian Journal of Forest Research

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Thirty year change in lodgepole and lodgepole/mixed conifer forest structure following 1980s mountain pine beetle outbreak in western Colorado, USA, Kristen A. Pelz and Frederick W. Smith; Forest Ecology and Management

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Wildfire provides refuge from local extinction but is an unlikely driver of outbreaks by mountain pine beetle, Erinn N. Powell, Philip A. Townsend, and Kenneth F. Raffa; Ecological Monographs

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Effects of Mountain Pine Beetle on Fuels and Expected Fire Behavior in Lodgepole Pine Forests, Colorado, USA, Tania Schoennagel, Thomas T. Veblen, Jose F. Negron, and Jeremy M. Smith; PLoSOne

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Bark beetles and fire: two forces of nature transforming western forests, Gail Wells; Fire Science Digest

2011

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Changes in litter and dead wood loads following tree death beneath subalpine conifer species in northern Colorado, Christof Bigler and Thomas T. Veblen; Canadian Journal of Forest Research

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Fire and High-Elevation, Five-Needle Pine (Pinus aristata & P. flexilis) Ecosystems in the Southern Rocky Mountains: What Do We Know?, Jonathan D. Coop and Anna W. Schoettle; In: Keane, Robert E.; Tomback, Diana F.; Murray, Michael P.; and Smith, Cyndi M., eds. 2011. The future of high-elevation, five-needle white pines in Western North USDA Forest Service Proceedings RMRS-P-63. 2011. America: Proceedings of the High Five Symposium. 28-30 June 2010; Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-63. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 376 p. Online at http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_p063.html

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Mountain pine beetle host-range expansion threatens the boreal forest, Catherine I. Cullingham, Janice E.K. Cooke, Sophiw Dang, Corey S. Davis, Barry J. Cooke, and David W. Coltman; Molecular Ecology

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Forest developmental trajectories in mountain pine beetle disturbed forests of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, Matthew Diskin, Monique E. Rocca, Kellen N. Nelson, Carissa F. Aoki, and W H. Romme; Canadian Journal of Forest Research

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Fire Injury Reduces Inducible Defenses of Lodgepole Pine against Mountain Pine Beetle, Powell N. Erinn and Kenneth F. Raffa; Journal of Chemical Ecology

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Fuel and Fire Behavior in High-Elevation Five-Needle Pines Affected by Mountain Pine Beetle, Michael J. Jenkins; Pre-print: Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-xx, USDA Forest Service. Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula, MT

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Resources for Managing the Impact of Bark Beetle Activity on Conifer Fuels and Fire Behavior, Michael J. Jenkins, Elizabeth G. Hebertson, Wesley G. Page, and Wanda E. Lindquist

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Forest structure altered by mountain pine beetle outbreaks affects subsequent attack in a Wyoming lodgepole pine forest, USA, Daniel M. Kashian, Rebecca M. Jackson, and Heather D. Lyons; Canadian Journal of Forest Research

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Evaluating Potential Fire Behavior in Lodgepole Pine-Dominated Forests after a Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic in North-Central Colorado, Jennifer G. Klutsch, Mike A. Battaglia, West R. Daniel, Sheryl L. Costello, and Jose F. Negron; Western Journal of Applied Forestry

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The influence of mountain pine beetle outbreaks and drought on severe wildfires in northwestern Colorado and southern Wyoming: A look at the past century, Dominik Kulakowski and Daniel Jarvis; Forest Ecology and Management

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The influence of mountain pine beetle outbreaks and drought on severe wildfires in northwestern Colorado and southern Wyoming: A look at the past century, Dominik Kulakowski and Daniel Jarvis; Forest Ecology and Management

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Interacting disturbances: wildfire severity affected by stage of forest disease invasion, Margaret R. Metz, Kerri M. Frangioso, Ross K. Meentemeyer, and David M. Rizzo; Ecological Applications

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What explains landscape patterns of tree mortality caused by bark beetle outbreaks in Greater Yellowstone?, Martin Simard, Erinn N. Powell, Kenneth F. Raffa, and Monica G. Turner; Global Ecology and Biogeography

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Do Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreaks Change the Probability of Active Crown Fire in Lodgepole Pine Forests?, Martin Simard, William H. Romme, Jacob M. Griffin, and Monica G. Turner; Ecological Monographs

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Seed release in serotinous lodgepole pine forests after mountain pine beetle outbreak, Francois P. Teste, Victor J. Lieffers, and Simon M. Landhausser; Ecological Applications

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Viability of Forest Floor and Canopy Seed Banks in Pinus contorta var. latifoia (Pinaceas) Forests After a Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreak, Francois P. Teste, Victor J. Lieffers, and Simon M. Landhausser; American Journal of Botany

2010

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Climate Change and Bark Beetles of the Western United States and Canada: Direct and Indirect Effects, Barbara J. Bentz, Jacques Régnière, Matthew Hansen, Jane L. Hayes, Jefferey A. Hicke, Rick G. Kelsey, Jose F. Negron, and Steven J. Seybold; BioScience

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Disturbance from Southern Pine Beetle, Suppression, and Wildfire Affects Vegetation Composition In Central Louisiana: A Case Study, T W. Coleman, Alton Martin Jr, J R. Meeker, S R. Clarke, and L K. Rieske; USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, General Technical Report SRS-129