Alternative approaches for integrated area-wide management of the mountain pine beetle epidemic in Alberta

In 2013, we undertook a project to evaluate the efficacy of Mountain Beetle Management (MPB) management in Alberta. The primary objective was to determine the effectiveness of current direct control efforts at slowing the spread of MPB in comparison to alternative strategies, one of which included ‘do nothing’. The work was conducted in two phases comprising three distinct activities. In Phase 1, (i) a model was developed to predict the productivity of MPB in relation to forest, climate and topographical conditions (r-model), and (ii) the efficacy of single tree removals (level 1 treatments) to reduce local MPB populations was directly assessed. In Phase 2, the r-model, control efficacy assessment, data regarding clear cutting to remove MPB (level 2 treatments), and forest inventory data, were combined, (iii) to develop a spread model (MPBSpread) to evaluate the relative impact of the current versus
alternative control strategies at slowing the spread of MPB across a section of north-central Alberta.
This report is the result of a follow-up project initiated in 2017, utilizing MPBSpread and focusing on improving system resilience to the developing outbreak, broadening treatment options, and enhancing adaptive capacity, at a much broader scale. To that end, project objectives were: (a) predict whether the current reactive approach to MPB control can prevent the beetle’s eastward spread across Alberta’s pine forests. The principles and procedures developed in the earlier work were applied to only a very small landscape; this analysis is now expanded to the northern half of Alberta; (b) model the efficacy of proactive management strategies where the principal hypothesis is that a primary factor controlling the rate of MPB spread is landscape connectivity; and (c) develop a decision support tool (DST) to evaluate 
costs, tradeoffs, and outcomes.