Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)




Julia I. Burton


Steve L. Voelker


Bark beetle outbreaks are becoming more intense and severe when coupled with the effects of climate change. Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) is one such species facing large-scale, epidemic spruce beetle outbreaks. Large-scale disturbances, such as beetle outbreaks, have major consequences for the future success of the ecosystem, thus highlighting the importance of understanding what promotes amplified outbreaks as well as their effects on future seedling establishment. Our research focused on two parts of a large-scale beetle outbreak: the mortality of spruce trees and the subsequent regeneration of seedlings. Our first study examined the timing of spruce mortality during an outbreak in order to identify the extent to which drought promotes host species mortality. Trees that are drought stressed have less resources to defend themselves against beetle attacks, however, the warmer temperatures associated with droughts also promote a more rapid population expansion of spruce beetles. We were specifically interested in determining the contribution that host drought stress plays during an epidemic outbreak. Our second study analyzed the patterns of regenerating seedlings with an aim to identify changes associated with the outbreak. Specifically, we were interested in how an epidemic outbreak changes the drivers of seedling establishment.