Date of Award:

12-2013

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Michael J. Jenkins

Abstract

Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) has caused extensive tree mortality in whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm) forests. Previous studies conducted in various conifer forests have shown that fine surface fuels are significantly altered during a bark beetle outbreak. Bark beetle activity in conifer stands has also been shown to alter foliar fuel moisture content and chemistry over the course of the bark beetle rotation.
The objective of this study was to evaluate changes to fine surface fuels, foliar fuel moisture and chemistry and litter chemistry in and under whitebark pine trees infested by mountain pine beetle. Fuels were measured beneath green (healthy) trees compared to red (two years since initial MPB attack with 50% or greater needles remaining) and gray (greater than two years since attack with between 15% and 45% needles remaining) trees. Foliar moisture content was measured in four mountain pine beetle crown condition classes: green-uninfested, green-infested (current year’s attack), yellow (last year’s attack), and red. Total terpene content was analyzed in whitebark pine needle litter and volatile terpenes were collected and analyzed from green, green-infested, yellow, and red trees.
Significant differences were found in litter depths under green, red, and gray
trees. Duff depths were significantly less beneath green trees than red and gray trees. One hour and ten hour fuels were more influenced by diameter and crown size than beetle crown condition classes. Foliar fuel moisture content dramatically decreased from green-infested to the red beetle crown condition class. No differences were detected in shrub and forb biomass between green, red, and gray trees. Green-infested trees had significantly lower foliar fuel moisture than green trees and by late in the season showed fuel moisture levels similar to red trees which had the lowest fuel moisture content. Litter beneath red trees contained large amounts of terpenes, including compounds known to increase foliage flammability that remain in the litter throughout the fire season. Total terpene content emitted from red foliage is greater than green-infested or yellow foliage.

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