Model Analysis of Mountain Pine Beetle (Coleoptera : Scolytidae) Seasonality

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Environmental Entomology

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The mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, is a natural disturbance agent of considerable consequence in western pine forests. This economically and ecologically important insect has a strong requisite for maintaining a strict seasonality. Given this ecological requirement, it is somewhat surprising that no evidence for diapause or other physiological timing mechanism has been found. Seasonality and phenological timing for this species are apparently under direct temperature control. The consequences of direct temperature control were investigated by first constructing a computationally efficient phenology model based on previously published temperature dependent developmental data. The dynamic properties of this model were explored when subjected to observed microhabitat temperatures representing a range of thermal habitats from one region of the mountain pine beetle distribution (Idaho, USA). The consequences of global climate change on phenology and seasonality were also investigated. The results indicate that an adaptive seasonality is a natural consequence of the interaction between developmental parameters and seasonal temperatures. Although this adaptive phenology appears to be resilient to temperature fluctuations, changes in climate within the magnitude of predicted climate change under a CO2 doubling scenario are capable of shifting a thermally hostile environment to a thermally benign environment. Similarly, increasing temperature by the same amount resulted in phenological disruption of a previously favorable thermal habitat. The implications of these results for restricting the current distribution of mountain pine beetle, and the potential for shifting distribution caused by global climate change are discussed.