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The influence of previous mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) activity on the 1988 Yellowstone fires

Author(s): Heather J. Lynch, Roy A. Renkin, Robert Crabtree, Paul R. Moorcroft
Year Published: 2006

We examined the historical record of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) activity within Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, for the 25-years period leading up to the 1988 Yellowstone fires (1963-86) to determine how prior beetle activity and the resulting tree mortality affected the spatial pattern of the 1988 Yellowstone fires. To obtain accurate estimates of our model parameters, we used a Markov chain Monte Carlo method to account for the high degree of spatial autocorrelation inherent to forest fires. Our final model included three statistically significant variables: drought, aspect, and sustained mountain pine beetle activity in the period 1972-75. Of the two major mountain pine beetle outbreaks that preceded the 1988 fires, the earlier outbreak (1972-75) was significantly correlated with the burn pattern, whereas the more recent one (1980-83) was not. Although regional drought and high winds were responsible for the large scale of this event, the analysis indicates that mountain pine beetle activity in the mid-1970s increased the odds of burning in 1988 by 11% over unaffected areas. Although relatively small in magnitude, this effect, combined with the effects of aspect and spatial variation in drought, had a dramatic impact on the spatial pattern of burned and unburned areas in 1988.

Citation: Lynch, H.J.; Renkin, R.A.; Crabtree, R.L.; Moorcroft, P.R. 2006. The influence of previous mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) activity on the 1988 Yellowstone fires. Ecosystems. 9(8): 1318-1327.
Topic(s): Fire Ecology, Insects & Disease, Fire & Bark Beetles
Ecosystem(s): Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 13565
TTRS (Tall Timbers Research Station) Number: 21322
Record updated: Apr 20, 2017