Extreme climatic events, including droughts and heatwaves, can trigger outbreaks of woodboring beetles by compromising host defenses and creating habitat conducive for beetle development. As the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts are likely to increase in the future, beetle outbreaks are expected to become more common. The combination of drought and beetle outbreaks has the potential to alter ecosystem structure, composition, and function. Our aim was to investigate a potential outbreak of the native Eucalyptus
longhorned borer, Phoracantha semipunctata
), following one of the most severe droughts on record in the Northern Jarrah Forest of Southwestern Australia. Beetle damage and tissue moisture were examined in trees ranging from healthy to recently killed. Additionally, beetle population levels were examined in adjacent forest areas exhibiting severe and minimal canopy dieback. Severely drought-affected forest was associated with an unprecedented outbreak of P. semipunctata
, with densities 80 times higher than those observed in surrounding healthier forest. Trees recently killed by drought had significantly lower tissue moisture and higher feeding damage and infestation levels than those trees considered healthy or in the process of dying. These results confirm the outbreak potential of P. semipunctata
in its native Mediterranean-climate Eucalyptus
forest under severe water stress, and indicate that continued drying will increase the likelihood of outbreaks.
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