In recent decades, Norway spruce (Picea abies
L. Karst.) forests of the High Tatra Mountains have suffered unprecedented tree mortality caused by European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus
L.). Analysis of the spatiotemporal pattern of bark beetle outbreaks across the landscape in consecutive years can provide new insights into the population dynamics of tree-killing insects. A bark beetle outbreak occurred in the High Tatra Mountains after a storm damaged more than 10,000 ha of forests in 2004. We combined yearly Landsat-derived bark beetle infestation spots from 2006 to 2014 and meteorological data to identify the susceptibility of forest stands to beetle infestation. We found that digital elevation model (DEM)-derived potential radiation loads predicted beetle infestation, especially in the peak phase of beetle epidemic. Moreover, spots attacked at the beginning of our study period had higher values of received solar radiation than spots at the end of the study period, indicating that bark beetles prefer sites with higher insolation during outbreak. We conclude that solar radiation, easily determined from the DEM, better identified beetle infestations than commonly used meteorological variables. We recommend including potential solar radiation in beetle infestation prediction models.
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