Synergistic interactions of climate change, mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestations, and wildfire are likely to catalyze landscape-scale changes in vegetation distributions, successional stage, forest structure, and wildlife habitat suitability. We are linking a mechanistic model of MPB population success and a mechanistic, individual-tree succession model (FireBGCv2) to project changes in the magnitude and scope of MPB outbreaks under a range of climate conditions. Our modeling framework also allows dynamic simulations of potential changes in forest composition and structure, wildfire risk, and wildlife habitat suitability at landscape scales, while also incorporating direct and indirect interactions among disturbances. We are assessing wildlife habitat for a variety of species, including disturbance-associated woodpeckers of conservation concern.
Calibrate FireBGCv2 using existing field data from the Elkhorn Mountains, MT, pre-MPB outbreak (2002-2006) and post-outbreak 2009-2014;
Link a temperature-driven MPB model with FireBGCv2;
Develop dynamic models of wildlife habitat suitability that reflect changes in environmental conditions with time since MPB outbreak; and
Simulate the effects of potential future fire and MPB disturbance regimes on forest structure and wildlife habitat suitability under a range of climate and management scenarios.
Preliminary research on habitat for avian species following the MPB outbreak demonstrate:
Short-term increases in occupancy probability for beetle-foraging species, but decreases for some foliage-gleaning canopy insectivores;
Intermediate change in occupancy probability for many ground and shrub insectivores;
No change in overall species richness of native avifauna;
No change in nest survival of 5 woodpecker species over 9 years; and
Significant increases in nest densities of 3 beetle-foraging woodpecker species during the MPB outbreak.
The avian portion of this study provides essential scientific information for developing post-beetle management guidelines that maintain populations and habitats of species of conservation concern. The community-wide nature of our analysis elucidates the variety and degree of changes exhibited, and also gives managers more information upon which to base their decisions regarding post-beetle management activities.
Webinars: “Beetles, Burns, and Wildlife” and RMRS “Future Forests Webinar Series” on 6 March 2012.
Dresser, M. A. 2015. Demographic responses of woodpeckers in relation to a mountain pine beetle epidemic in the Elkhorn Mountains of Montana. M.S. thesis, Montana State University, Bozeman, 71 pp.
Mosher, B.A. 2011. Avian community response to a mountain pine beetle epidemic. M.S. thesis, Montana State University, Bozeman, 61 pp.