Biophysical and Climate Analysis of the Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) Infestations in the Crown of the Continent, 1962 to 2014
Garza, Mario Nicholas
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Mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) are native insects that have decimated millions of hectares of mature pine (Pinaceae) forests in western North America. The purpose of this study is to investigate biophysical and climatic correlates of Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) insect outbreaks in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem (CCE) from 1962 to 2014 using Aerial Detection Survey (ADS) and climate data. Specific objectives were: 1) to develop statistical models to determine how selected biophysical correlates (slope, aspect, elevation, and latitude) and 2) to understand how local and global climate variables relate to the extent of the MPB infestations in the CCE, and 3) to contextualize the results of the models with historical climate data. Overall, the major findings of this study are: 1) despite its limitations, the ADS data seems suitable for analysis of beetle damage with respect to climate and topographic factors, on a regional scale, 2) there appears to be a link between local biophysical factors and winter precipitation and TPA within the CCE, and 3) a combination of a negative-phase PDO and La Niña is important in forecasting a decline in MPB spread, during a given year. This study is the first, to our knowledge, to explore spatio-temporal patterns of MPB outbreaks using biophysical factors, and both local and global climate variables, over a fifty-year timespan in the CCE. In the future, additional geospatial analyses may enable a landscape assessment of factors contributing to variability of MPB infestation and damage as this insect continues to spread.
- Masters Theses