The mountain pine beetle (MPB) remains a threat to Alberta's pine forests and associated ecological services despite the province making positive progress in controlling its spread within the region and eastward to diminish the risk to Canada's eastern pine resource. In continuing its effort to manage the beetle, Alberta successfully secured federal assistance allowing it to remain focused on limiting the spread of MPB eastward and along the eastern slopes of the Rockies and, additionally, to mitigate damage to regional pine resources in locations where MPB is already established. This research partnership will aggressively seek new knowledge and innovative management techniques to address these broad outcomes.
This Request for Proposals broadly categorizes research needs into five strategic themes that are provincially and nationally important. The Themes build on the research categories that guided the fRI Research Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program from 2007 to the present in its pursuit of enhanced science-based knowledge to support policy development and inform operational decisions.
1. Mountain Pine Beetle Biology
Unlike in British Columbia, Alberta lodgepole pine has not co-evolved with the MPB, and hence, is more vulnerable to mortality. As the MPB spreads eastward through novel habitats of lodgepole, hybrid lodgepole pine – jack pine, and jack pine, one can expect to witness unique population dynamics. Many uncertainties exist regarding their interaction with novel hosts, fungal associates, natural enemies, and competitors. Moreover, climatic variations will broadly shift our current understanding of biological interactions thereby requiring additional and more intensive investigations. Enhancing our knowledge of MPB biology specific to the geographic continuum into eastern habitats is required to understand risks to eastern pine forests.
2. Mountain Pine Beetle Dispersal
The mountain pine beetle expands its range by spreading through the landscape by short and long-distance dispersal flights. In the extended range, MPB is challenged with more heterogeneous pine forests of lodgepole pine, hybrid lodgepole-jack pine exhibiting various degrees of resistance and a vastly different climate than experienced in their historical range. These factors affect their dispersal capability and impact population expansion.
3. Detection of Mountain Pine Beetle
Techniques to confidently detect the presence of MPB at varying densities are critical to the successful management of populations. Carroll et al. (2017) indicate that MPB single‐tree control efforts in homogenous stands in western Alberta were effective in limiting spread. Control efficacy is improved by effectively detecting green-attack trees and applying mitigative strategies within a given timeframe. Historically, provincial detection efficacy ranged between 54-68 percent (Carroll et al., 2017), increasing to 98.5 percent within the 50-metre concentric survey plot. The management of MPB involves short-term beetle-focused (single-tree treatment) actions and long-term host management strategies that target forest composition at a landscape scale. These strategies rely heavily on natural post beetle succession, stand susceptibility models, operational decision support tools, and MPB spread models. From a forest industry perspective improving individual/forest resistance coupled with stand management strategies are opportunities that may prove worthwhile in preventing a resurgence of the beetle in the future and fibre loss.
4. Ecological and Social Impacts of Mountain Pine Beetle
MPB outbreaks cause broad-scale ecological changes in pine forests across the landscape, leading to socio-economic impacts on community well-being, safety, and security of the forest industry. These changes may be less predictable in the expanded range, but understanding MPB’s impact is necessary to develop preparedness plans and increase community resiliency. Research on the overall effects of MPB in novel habitats is required. Moreover, increased understanding is needed on the impacts of MPB on:
a) The response of endangered species to changes in habitat due to MPB,
b) Hydrological induced changes across the landscape,
c) Stand regeneration and productivity, and
d) Degradation of fibre quality in salvageable timber.
Research carried out by fRI Research through its Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program has provided foundational insights to these questions, but more needs to be done to improve management strategies and to inform future risk assessments.
5. Wildfire Behaviour after Mountain Pine Beetle
Studies have shown that tree mortality resulting from MPB infestations affects susceptibility to fire through changes in fuel loading, fuel structure, and microclimate. Changes in fuel chemistry, e.g. release of highly volatile and flammable terpenoids by dying trees and the availability of standing dead trees, can dramatically affect fire behaviour (Jenkins, 2014). Parsons et al. (2014) have also found that MPB-killed trees may increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires and increase the rate of spread and a greater likelihood of crown fires (as reviewed by Nealis and Cooke 2012, Parsons et al. 2014. However, many knowledge gaps remain, particularly in understanding how MPB mortality contributes to landscape-level wildfires. Climate change and the movement of MPB into novel habitats are other unknown but potentially influential variables.
The GOA and the Canadian Forest Service are currently collaborating with fRI Research to address Mountain Pine Beetle Effects on the wildfire rate of spread and landscape fire risk and assess existing knowledge gaps with respect to landscape level wildfires.. This research is critical in informing the provincial FireSmart program as MPB impacts more forested communities.
References for Wildfire Behaviour after MPB
Carroll, A., Seely, B., Welham., C., Nelson, H. March 10, 2017. Assessing the effectiveness of Alberta’s forest management strategies against the MPB. The University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry. Final Report for fRI Research project 246.18 parts 1 and 2
Jenkins, MJ, J.B. Runyon, C. J. Fettig, W. G. Page, and B. J. Bentz. 2014. Interactions among the Mountain Pine Beetle, Fires, and Fuels. For. Sci. 60(3):489–501.
Parsons, R., Jolly, M., Langowski, P., Matonis, M., and Miller, S. 2014. Future Forests Webinar Series. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Proceedings, P-70: 19-28. Accessed May 31, 2018.
Nealis, V. and Cooke, B. 2012. Risk assessment of the threat of mountain pine beetle to Canada’s boreal and eastern pine forests. Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. 31 pp.
Preparing a Proposal
Those who plan to submit a research proposal are encouraged to review additional information in references listed below. These references provide provincial and national level descriptions of specific MPB information needs / research needs.
- Anon. 2021. MPBEP Research Prospectus (2007-2021): addressing information needs by the fRI Research Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program.
- Rubuliak, N., S. Odsen, and M. Pyper. 2021. DRAFT: Annotated Bibliography for the Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program (MPBEP). fRI Research, Hinton, AB. 51 pp. www.friresearch.ca.
- Anon. 2020. A proposal for a Federal/Provincial Partnership to manage mountain pine beetle in Alberta. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, January 17, 2020. 82p.
- Anon. 2018. Hinton Mountain Pine Beetle Advisory Committee Workplan. June 8, 2018. 27p.
- Bleiker, K. 2019 (Ed.). Risk assessment of the threat of mountain pine beetle to Canada’s boreal and eastern pine forests. Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. 65 pp.
- Cooke, B. and R. McIntosh, 2017. A strategic approach to slow the spread of mountain pine beetle across Canada. Prepared for the Forest Pest Working Group of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. 44p.
The Research Proposal
This call for proposals is part of a larger project receiving funding from the Government of Canada, which is subject to Federal Policy requirements on Transfer Payments. Federal government employees and organizations are not eligible for funding or any direct benefits under this call for proposals. Participation of federal employees in research led by other parties is possible under certain conditions and must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Federal employees must consult with their management team in that regard, and before making any commitment with their collaborators.
Please submit a notification of your intent to submit a proposal as this would allow any periodic updates, if any, to be sent to you directly before proposals are due.
Any proposal that is submitted must contain essential elements. These elements must be closely followed, and significant variance could result in the disqualification of the proposal. Submissions are limited to four pages plus one page of references if requried. Please be succinct.
Proposals must be sent to K. McClain by 3:00PM MST by December 17, 2021. None will be accepted after this date.
Once the proposal is received, it will be evaluated for compliance against the required elements referred to above. Failure to comply with the Requirements of Proposals will result in its rejection.
Provided the proposal succeeds in its primary evaluation, it will be forwarded to the Research Advisory Committee where it will be reviewed for overall quality and responsiveness to program outcomes.
All proponents will be notified of the results of the evaluation by January 30, 2022.