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Biological Aspects of Mountain Pine Beetle in Lodgepole Pine Stands of Different Densities in Colorado, USA

Author(s): Jose F. Negron
Year Published: 2019

Research highlights: The biology of mountain pine beetle (MPB), Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, in Colorado’s lodgepole pine forests exhibits similarities and differences to other parts of its range. Brood emergence was not influenced by stand density nor related to tree diameter. The probability of individual tree attack is influenced by stocking and tree size. Findings have implications for understanding MPB as a disturbance agent and for developing management strategies.

Background and Objectives: MPB causes extensive tree mortality of lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta Douglas ex Loudon, across the western US and Canada and is probably the most studied bark beetle in North America. However, most of the current knowledge on the biology and ecology of MPB in lodgepole pine comes from the Intermountain Region of the US and western Canada. Little information is available from Colorado. This is the first study addressing effects of stand stocking levels on the biology of MPB and quantifying phloem consumption. In addition, although data are available on the conditions that foster stand infestation, this is the first study estimating the probability of individual tree attack among stands of known different stocking.

Materials and Methods: Studies were conducted in managed lodgepole pine stands in Colorado. Unbaited traps were used to monitor MPB flight across stands of different densities. Cages were used to monitor emergence and bark samples to determine attack densities, and phloem consumption in trees growing under different stocking. Beetle collections were used to determine emergence across the growing season. Tree mortality data from plots of different densities were used to examine the probability of individual tree infestation.

Results: More beetles were caught flying through higher density stands. More attacks were observed in lower stocking stands but there were no differences in the number of insects emerging nor phloem consumption. There was no relationship between tree size and beetle emergence. Peak flight occurred in early to mid-August and only one peak of beetle emergence occurred. The probability of tree attack was influenced by stand stocking and tree diameter.

Conclusions: In general, aspects of the biology of MPB in Colorado exhibit similarities and differences with other regions. The data suggest the need to more closely examine how MPB functions in stands of different stocking and how the distribution of tree sizes influence the probability of infestation and extent of mortality in stands. Biological characteristics of MPB in Colorado need further examination, particularly as climate change continues to manifest. Baseline information will be critical to refine management approaches, and extend the understanding of how MPB contributes to shape forest composition and structure in Colorado.

Citation: Negrón, J.F. Biological Aspects of Mountain Pine Beetle in Lodgepole Pine Stands of Different Densities in Colorado, USA. Forests 2019, 10, 18. https://doi.org/10.3390/f10010018
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Wildlife, Fire & Wildlife, Invertebrates, Mountain pine beetles
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 18813
Record updated: Jan 30, 2019