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Vulnerability of Conifer Regeneration to Spruce Budworm Outbreaks in the Eastern Canadian Boreal Forest

by Janie Lavoie 1,†, Miguel Montoro Girona 2,3,*,† and Hubert Morin 1
1
Département des Sciences Fondamentales, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, 555 boul. de l’Université, Chicoutimi, QC G7H 2B1, Canada
2
Institut de Recherche sur les Forêts, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, 445 boul. de l’Université, Rouyn-Noranda, QC J9X 5E4, Canada
3
Ecology Restoration Group, Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Environmental Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), 901 83 Umeå, Sweden
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Co-first author.
Forests 2019, 10(10), 850; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10100850
Received: 19 August 2019 / Revised: 17 September 2019 / Accepted: 27 September 2019 / Published: 29 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Forest Ecology and Management)
Spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana) is the main defoliator of conifer trees in North American boreal forests, affecting extensive areas and causing marked losses of timber supplies. In 2017, spruce budworm affected more than 7 million ha of Eastern Canadian forest. Defoliation was particularly severe for black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.), one of the most important commercial trees in Canada. During the last decades, intensive forest exploitation practices have created vast stands of young balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.) and black spruce. Most research focused on the impacts of spruce budworm has been on mature stands; its effects on regeneration, however, have been neglected. This study evaluates the impacts of spruce budworm on the defoliation of conifer seedlings (black spruce and balsam fir) in clearcuts. We measured the cumulative and annual defoliation of seedlings within six clearcut black spruce stands in Quebec (Canada) that had experienced severe levels of defoliation due to spruce budworm. For all sampled seedlings, we recorded tree species, height class, and distance to the residual forest. Seedling height and species strongly influenced defoliation level. Small seedlings were less affected by spruce budworm activity. As well, cumulative defoliation for balsam fir was double that of black spruce (21% and 9%, respectively). Distance to residual stands had no significant effect on seedling defoliation. As insect outbreaks in boreal forests are expected to become more severe and frequent in the near future, our results are important for adapting forest management strategies to insect outbreaks in a context of climate change. View Full-Text
Keywords: black spruce; balsam fir; clearcut; edge effect; forest damages; forest dynamics; global change; natural disturbances; sustainable forest management; seedlings black spruce; balsam fir; clearcut; edge effect; forest damages; forest dynamics; global change; natural disturbances; sustainable forest management; seedlings
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Lavoie, J.; Montoro Girona, M.; Morin, H. Vulnerability of Conifer Regeneration to Spruce Budworm Outbreaks in the Eastern Canadian Boreal Forest. Forests 2019, 10, 850.

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