Using genetic analyses to infer mountain pine beetle population structure and dispersal patterns in British Columbia and Alberta.

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The mountain pine beetle (MPB) is an eruptive insect that is currently causing an outbreak of record size in western Canada. The longstanding lack of long-distance MPB dispersal data has limited our understanding and management of MPB outbreaks. Our goal was to characterize the genetic structure of western Canadian MPB populations, from which dispersal patterns may be inferred. We analyzed 35 MPB stands in British Columbia and Alberta at six microsatellite loci. The MPB exhibited strong and significant population structure. This structure was partitioned into a Northern and Southern group. The genetic structure and observed patterns of diversity are consistent with the notion of post-glacial recolonization and climate-driven differences in MPB population dynamics. Using our genetic data, we inferred the historical movement patterns of the MPB in western Canada. We found no evidence that the infestation spread from an epicentre in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. Our data support multiple sources for the current outbreak. Management recommendations are included.

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