Forecasting eruptive dynamics and spread of Mountain Pine Beetle in East-Central Alberta | MPBEP Webinar

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Barry Cooke, Natural Resources Canada
Alex M. Chubaty, FOR-CAST Research & Analytics
Eliot McIntire, Natural Resources Canada & University of British Columbia


Mountain pine beetle (MPB) has expanded beyond its native range in western Canada and poses a risk to large areas of contiguous pine forests within the boreal plains of central Canada. Robust forecasts of MPB eruptive potential and spread are required to identify regions for targeted management actions in order to slow the spread of this tree-killing forest pest. We developed and validated a spatially explicit MPB forecasting model that couples an existing (aspatial) population growth model with a long range dispersal and climatic suitability models for a study area in central Alberta, Canada. Our model showed very good to excellent predictive ability over a 10-year forecast horizon, based on Area Under the Curve scores. We forecast MPB eruptive dynamics and dispersal for the current decade (2021-2030), and predict modest range expansions northward and eastwards. Our spatial forecasts identify areas at greatest risk of MPB infestation this decade, and therefore identifies areas that could be targeted by management actions before these populations grow out of control. A key benefit of the modelling system we used is modularity and reusability of model components, which facilitates application of the model to new study areas. Additional integration of this model with climate change, wildfires, species-at-risk, and management models may be used to address complex land management challenges beyond the short terms here.

Presenter Bios

Dr. Barry Cooke

Research scientist at the Canadian Forest Service, Great Lakes Forestry Centre, Sault. Ste. Marie, Ontario. Dr. Cooke has been studying mountain pine beetle for 15 years and was a lead author in developing a 2017 national response strategy for slowing its eastward spread across Canada.

Dr. Cooke will be presenting a brief background on the mountain pine beetle problem in Alberta, as well as the state of the aspatial models for forecasting mountain pine beetle eruptive growth dynamics. From this foundation, we begin the current project on eruptive spread potential.

Dr. Alex Chubaty

President of FOR-CAST Research & Analytics, an ecological consulting company. He is an ecologist and simulation modeller developing landscape-level models of insect dispersal and forest disturbance, and has been working with MPB since his PhD and is the co-creator and co-developer of the SpaDES platform.

Dr. Chubaty will be presenting on what it means to build a forecasting model of the spatial dynamics of Mountain Pine Beetle. He will go over some of the challenges involved in forecasting such a dynamic and variable pest.

Dr. Eliot McIntire

Research scientist at the Canadian Forest Service, Victoria, BC. He has been modeling flying insects for almost 20 years, and examining Mountain Pine Beetle effects since his PhD. Currently, he is the lead scientist of the Western Boreal Initiative, and the SpaDES open modeling project. His focus is on building forecasting tools and nimble models that can become part of adaptive approaches to landscape management.

Dr. McIntire will be presenting two outcomes of this work: a validation of the model using the notion of “forecast horizon” and actual spatial forecasts of Mountain Pine Beetle for the next decade.

Presenters will conclude their webinar focusing on next steps and how the current model can be used as-is, and discuss possible paths forward from this project.