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Stand dynamics and the mountain pine beetle — 30 years of forest change in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

Citation

Jodi N. Axelson, Brad C. Hawkes, Lara van Akker, René I. Alfaro. "Stand dynamics and the mountain pine beetle — 30 years of forest change in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada." Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 48: 1–12 (2018) doi: 10.1139/cjfr-2018-0161

Abstract

The mountain pine beetle (MPB; Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) is a native bark beetle and a major disturbance agent in western North American forests. In the 1970s and 1980s, a MPB outbreak occurred in Waterton Lakes National Park (WLNP) in southwestern Alberta. The MPB outbreak resulted in variable levels of mortality of mature lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia Engelm. ex S. Watson), reducing density, volume, and basal area of overstory trees. By 2010, lodgepole pine was proportionally no longer the dominant overstory species, with increases in non-pine conifer and broadleaf species. The MPB susceptibility index decreased in most stands over time, especially in stands with the highest MPB-caused mortality. Downed woody material was characterized by fine and coarse fuel mass and volume, which both increased from 2002 to 2010, and the abundance of coarse fuels was highest in 2010, nearly 30 years after peak MPB activity. Density of understory saplings and small regeneration increased from 2002 to 2010 and was dominated by non-pine conifer and broadleaf species; lodgepole pine was nearly absent. Hierarchical clustering using 2010 MPB susceptibility and composition data characterized biological legacies remaining after the MPB outbreak. These legacies suggest multiple successional trajectories in WLNP dominated by species other than lodgepole pine. The MPB outbreak resulted in greater heterogeneity in composition and structure and suggests that stands have been resilient to this disturbance.

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