Research Highlight: Mountain Pine Beetles and Wildfire in the Northern Rockies

Novus participant Brian Harvey (University of Wisconsin) and colleagues recently published a paper on the interaction between mountain pine beetle outbreaks and wildfire severity on post-fire tree regeneration in the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States. Recent severe beetle outbreaks have fueled concern that such outbreaks might cause higher intensity wildfires through increased forest fuel and negatively impact post-fire forest regeneration. The authors assessed fire severity and seedling regeneration across a gradient of beetle outbreak severity throughout the US northern Rockies. The study found that fire severity was mostly unaffected by pre-fire beetle outbreaks under moderate conditions, though extreme beetle outbreaks increased surface fire severity. Seedling regeneration was unaffected by pre-fire beetle outbreak severity, suggesting that subalpine forests may be resilient to the interactive effects of wildfire and mountain pine beetle outbreaks.

Full citation:
Harvey, BJ, DC Donato, MG Turner (2014) Recent mountain pine beetle outbreaks, wildfire severity and postfire tree regeneration in the US Northern Rockies, PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1411346111

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