Forest structure altered by mountain pine beetle outbreaks affects subsequent attack in a Wyoming lodgepole pine forest, USA

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Canadian Journal of Forest Research

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Abstract: Extensive outbreaks of the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) will alter the structure of many stands that will likely be attacked again before experiencing a stand-replacing fire. We examined a stand of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia Engelm. ex S. Watson) in Grand Teton National Park currently experiencing a moderate- level outbreak and previously attacked by mountain pine beetle in the 1960s. Consistent with published studies, tree diame- ter was the main predictor of beetle attack on a given tree, large trees were preferentially attacked, and tree vigor, age, and cone production were unimportant variables for beetle attack at epidemic levels. Small trees killed in the stand were killed based mainly on their proximity to large trees and were likely spatially aggregated with large trees as a result of the previous outbreak. We concluded that the driving factors of beetle attack and their spatial patterns are consistent across outbreak se- verities but that stand structure altered by the previous outbreak had implications for the current outbreaks in the same loca- tion. This study should catalyze additional research that examines how beetle-altered stand structure affects future outbreaks — an important priority for predicting their impacts under climate change scenarios that project increases in out- break frequency and extent.