MPB-attacked forest with mountain backdrop

Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program

Research on beetle biology, its effect on the landscape, and the effectiveness of various management strategies.

The mountain pine beetle remains a severe threat to Alberta’s pine forests despite the province making positive progress in controlling its spread within the province and aiding in abating the risk to the rest of Canada.

The program is focusing on five key research themes

MPB Biology

Unlike in British Columbia where lodgepole pine has coevolved with Mountain Pine Beetle, Alberta pine is more vulnerable to mortality due to a lack of co-evolution. As the MPB spread eastward through the novel habitats of lodgepole, lodgepole pine – hybrid jack pine and pack pine one can expect to witness unique population dynamics and a range of biological interaction with new hosts. 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 that will required elucidation to ensure effective operational decisions. Re-exploring MPB biology in eastern habitats is therefore required to understand the risk to eastern pine forests better.

2. MPB 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 populations are 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. All of these factors affect their dispersal capability and impact population expansion.

3 detection of MPB

Tools to confidently detect the presence of MPB at varying densities are critical to the successful management of populations. Analysis by Carroll et al. (2017) indicates that MPB single‐tree control efforts in homogenous stands in western Alberta were effective at limiting spread. Control efficacy is partially limited by effectively detecting green-attack trees and responding within a given timeframe. Historically, provincial detection efficacy ranged between 54-68 percent. Provincially, detection accuracy within the 50 metres concentric survey plot averages 98.5 percent and increases only marginally at increased plot radii.

Management of MPB involves short-term beetle-focused (single-tree treatment) actions and long-term host management strategies that target forest composition at a larger scale. These strategies rely heavily on stand susceptibility models, operational decision support tools, and MPB spread models.

4 ecological and social impact

MPB outbreaks cause broad-scale ecological changes in pine forests leading to socio-economic impacts affecting community well-being, safety and security of the forest industry. These changes may be less predictable in the MPB expanded range, but understanding their impact is necessary to develop preparedness and increase community resiliency. Research on the effects of MPB in these new novel habitats is required. Moreover, understanding is needed on the response of endangered species to changes in habitat due to MPB, on hydrologically induced changes across the landscape and on stand regeneration. Research carried out by fRI Research through its Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program has provided essential insights to these questions, but more needs to be done. It is essential to incorporate this science-based knowledge into management strategies and to inform future risk assessments.

5 wildfire behaviour after MPB

Studies have shown that tree mortality resulting from MPB infestations affects the susceptibility of stands to fire through changes in fuel loading, fuel structure, and microclimates. Changes in fuel chemistry, e.g., the release of highly flammable terpenoids by dying trees and availability of standing dead trees, can have potentially dramatic impacts on fire behaviour (Jenkins, 2014). Parsons et al. (2014) noted that MPB-killed trees may increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires and contribute to a more rapid 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 light of climate change and the movement of MPB into novel habitats.

Program Lead
Dr. Keith McClain
Assessing Community Resilience to Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreaks in Alberta
A collaboration between the Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program and the University of British Columbia.
Beyond Beetle: Natural and facilitated lodgepole pine regeneration after mountain pine beetle outbreaks in Alberta
What will happen to stands after mountain pine beetle infestations?
Potential Impacts of Mountain Pine Beetle and Management Actions on Grizzly Bear and Caribou Populations in West-Central Alberta
This project will determine how MPB-killed stands are impacting caribou and grizzly bear habitat.
Tria-Net: Dynamics of Endemic MPB Populations in Novel Pine Habitats
Will the beetle continue its expansion when it reaches hybrid jack pine forests?
Stand Dynamics after Mountain Pine Beetle Attack
How will a stand respond after MPB infestation, and what can the forestry industry do to help it regenerate?
Cold tolerance of mountain pine beetle: Impact on population dynamics and spread in Canada
This study examines how instar mortality varies with the severity and duration of cold exposure.
Post mortality rate of wood degradation and tree fall in lodgepole pine trees killed by mountain pine beetle in the Foothills and Rocky Mountain regions of Alberta
This project seeks to understand wood degradation in MPB-killed lodgepole pine, which will allow industry to optimize harvesting of at-risk forests.
The mountain pine beetle in novel pine forests: Predicting impacts in a warming environment
What will mountain pine beetle do in naive pine stands?
The interaction of prescribed fire and beetle populations
Can fire be used to slow the spread of mountain pine beetle?
Mountain pine beetle population dynamics in new habitats and climates: The potential for eastern and northern spread in Canada
Warmer weather is driving MPB range expansion, but how well will the beetle take hold in novel habitats?
Monitoring and decision support for regeneration management in a mountain pine beetle environment
How can forest companies best help stands bounce back from a MPB infestation?
Effects of Mountain Pine Beetle Attack on hydrology and post-attack vegetation and hydrology recovery in lodgepole pine forests in Alberta
This project will describe how mountain pine beetle attack drives changes in hydrology and vegetation.
Impact of Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreaks and Treatments on Caribou and Grizzly Bear Food
Summaries and Communications | Infographics
Infographic by Alyssa Bohart for a joint MPBEP-Caribou Program project.
a mountain pine beetle being introduced to a tree bolt in a lab
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
2-page summary from the Evenden lab at the University of Alberta.
forest photo in which single tree cut and burn has been practiced. stump in foreground, red needles on the ground, the rest of the forest is standing
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
This 2-page briefing note summarizes a recent paper looking at how to balance management of mountain pine beetle, grizzly bears, […]
aerial photo of the foothills with mostly green conifers, but some red-attack trees sprinkled in
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
Introductory QuickNote for a Caribou Program project funded by the federal-provincial MPB partnership.
mountain with green and red attack pine trees in foreground photo credit: catherine cullingham
Scientific Publications | Reports | Summaries and Communications | Resource Lists and Compendiums
Summaries of over 100 publications on mountain pine beetle spanning entomology, genomics, and landscape ecology.
watercolour illustration of a mountain pine beetle
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications | Resource Lists and Compendiums
Introduction to 15 new mountain pine beetle research projects.
Pine Genomic Signatures of Resiliency to Mountain Pine Beetle
QuickNotes | Summaries and Communications
Summary of progress on a TRIA-NET and MPBEP project.
chalk drawings of high and low mortality stands, MPB, and a pine cone
Scientific Publications | Reports | Summaries and Communications | Resource Lists and Compendiums
Centralized listing of MPBEP research, outcomes, and implications.
young caribou
Two post-doctoral researchers at UBC and UNBC are partnering with the Caribou Program.
After a hiatus, the MPB Research Forum returns October 24–26, 2023. Register now for an early bird rate.
Federal-Provincial MPB Research Partnership Requests for Proposals | November 19 2021
The second round of funding from the governments of Canada and Alberta is available for research on five critical mountain pine beetle topics. Proposals are due December 17.
Forecasting eruptive dynamics and spread of Mountain Pine Beetle in East-Central Alberta | MPBEP Webinar
Online presentation from the Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program on October 6.
Federal-Provincial MPB Research Partnership Requests for Proposals | March 2021
New funding from the governments of Canada and Alberta is available for research on five critical mountain pine beetle topics.
Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program Science Round Up - Webinar Series
The Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program has gone online. Register for any and all of our 11 webinars.
Mountain Pine Beetle Ecology Program Request for Expressions of Interest for Research
The program has identified 7 topics that it will support and is seeking researchers with ideas and interest, due February 6.
Launching LandWeb
A suite of models and a breakthrough platform that integrates many scientific fields will solve some of the hard, multi-way interactions of landscape ecology.
Save the Date: 2018 Forest Forum April 24–25
The annual mountain pine beetle information forum will be held April 24 and 25 at the University of Alberta.
Dr. Keith McClain
Dr. Keith McClain
Program Lead