Date of Award:

5-1987

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Ecology

Advisor/Chair:

James N. Long

Abstract

Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry ex Engelm.) exhibits cone crop periodicity, producing seed in a cyclic pattern. Variation in seed production has been noted between individuals of a population, but synchronization on a large scale is common. The theory that ultimately these periodic large cone crops have resulted from the selective pressures of seed and cone predators, referred to as the predator satiation hypothesis, is considered. Assuming predator pressures have operated over evolutionary time to select for periodic synchrony, associations between seed and cone predators and cone crop production levels were anticipated. These potential consequences of predator satiation were examined.

Long-term data from 1948 to 1970 of Engelmann spruce cone production levels and small mammal populations, estimated from trappings, were analyzed for positive associations. Three small mammal categories, mice (Peromyscus spp.), chipmunks (Eutamias spp.) and red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) were examined. Only the correlation coefficient between population indices for mice and cone crop production was found to be significant.

Engelmann spruce cones were collected throughout the summer of a year of low cone production. The impacts and timing of insect infestation were determined in developing cones. The major insects found were western spruce budworm (Choristoneura occidentalis (Freeman) (Lepidoptera: Torticidae)), fir coneworm (Dioryctria abietvorella (Grote) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)), and spruce seed moth (Laspeyresia youngana (Kearfott) (Lepidoptera: Olethreutidae)). Insects reduced the survival of cones to 11.48 cones out of 100. The high percentage of seeds and cones lost to insect predation supported previous studies of a similar nature.

Both studies examined the potential consequences of the predator satiation hypothesis which has been suggested as an adaptive mechanism for trees to avoid seed and cone predation.

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