Spruce Beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) Outbreak in Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannil) in Central Utah, 1986-1998

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Western North American Naturalist

Publication Date






First Page


Last Page



Extensive Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm.) mortality caused by the spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis Kirby) has been occurring at the southern end of the Wasatch Plateau in central Utah. This spruce beetle outbreak is the largest recorded in Utah history. An extensive ground survey was conducted in 1996 on the Manti-LaSal National Forest, Sanpete and Ferron Ranger Districts, to document mortality and impact of a major spruce beetle outbreak on post-outbreak forest composition. In 1998 the same sites were resurveyed. Survey results indicate Engelmann spruce basal area (BA) loss averaged 78% in trees ≥5 inches diameter breast height (DBH) in 1996. Ninety percent of BA ≥5 inches DBH was lost within the same sites by 1998. Tree mortality of spruce ≥5 inches DBH expressed in trees per acre (TPA) averaged 53% in 1996. In 1998 TPA ≥5 inches DBH mortality averaged 73%. Before the outbreak live Engelmann spruce BA ≥5 inches DBH averaged 99 square feet, and TPA ≥5 inches DBH averaged 97. In the sites surveyed in 1996 and resurveyed in 1998, Engelmann spruce BA ≥5 inches DBH averaged 21 and 9 square feet, and TPA ≥5 inches DBH averaged 43 and 25, respectively. Overstory tree species composition changed from stands dominated by spruce to subalpine fir. Stand ratings for potential spruce beetle outbreaks were high to mostly medium hazard pre-outbreak and medium to primarily low hazard by 1998, as a result of reduction in average spruce diameter, total basal area, and overstory spruce.