Due to the recent outbreaks of bark beetles in western U.S.A., research has focused on the effects of tree mortality on forest conditions, such as fuel complexes and stand structure. However, most studies have addressed outbreak populations of bark beetles only and there is a lack of information on the effect of multiple endemic, low level populations of biotic disturbance agents that could influence forest dynamics, fuel heterogeneity, and species composition. Downed woody material, fuel parameters and stand characteristics were assessed in areas of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) infested with southwestern dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium vaginatum subsp. cryptopodum), and in areas with endemic populations of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) and Ips spp. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Scolytinae) in northern Colorado. Both endemic bark beetles and dwarf mistletoe were associated with more dense stands than uninfested plots and resulted in reducing basal area of live trees. The amount of downed woody material was positively related to time since tree mortality and basal area of bark beetle-attacked trees. There was an increase of up to 10% for fine and coarse downed woody material for every increase of 1m2 ha 1 basal area of mortality from mountain pine beetle that was 4-15 years after death. The average intensity of dwarf mistletoe infections on live trees was positively related to amount of 10-h downed woody material and negatively associated with percent live ponderosa pine crown. Fuel bed and canopy characteristics were dependent on the presence of both dwarf mistletoe and mountain pine beetle-caused mortality. Together these endemic biotic disturbances have an effect on downed woody material biomass accumulation, fuel arrangements, stand densities and species composition.
Klutsch, Jennifer G.; Beam, Russell D.; Jacobi, William R.; Negron, Jose F. 2014. Bark beetles and dwarf mistletoe interact to alter downed woody material, canopy structure, and stand characteristics in northern Colorado ponderosa pine. Forest Ecology and Management. 315: 63-71.