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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Effects of Bark Beetle Outbreaks on Forest Landscape Pattern in the Southern Rocky Mountains, U.S.A.

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Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, 1630 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706, USA
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School of the Environment, Washington State University, P.O. Box 642812, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
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Colorado Field Office, The Nature Conservancy, 2424 Spruce St., Boulder, CO 80302, USA
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Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Guggenheim 110, 260 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
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Department of Natural Resources Management, Texas Tech University, Box 42125, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA
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School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Box 352100, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
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Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, 950 Main St., Worcester, MA 01610, USA
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Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University, 1472 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Nikos Koutsias
Remote Sens. 2021, 13(6), 1089; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13061089
Received: 9 February 2021 / Revised: 3 March 2021 / Accepted: 9 March 2021 / Published: 12 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Ecological Remote Sensing)
Since the late 1990s, extensive outbreaks of native bark beetles (Curculionidae: Scolytinae) have affected coniferous forests throughout Europe and North America, driving changes in carbon storage, wildlife habitat, nutrient cycling, and water resource provisioning. Remote sensing is a crucial tool for quantifying the effects of these disturbances across broad landscapes. In particular, Landsat time series (LTS) are increasingly used to characterize outbreak dynamics, including the presence and severity of bark beetle-caused tree mortality, though broad-scale LTS-based maps are rarely informed by detailed field validation. Here we used spatial and temporal information from LTS products, in combination with extensive field data and Random Forest (RF) models, to develop 30-m maps of the presence (i.e., any occurrence) and severity (i.e., cumulative percent basal area mortality) of beetle-caused tree mortality 1997–2019 in subalpine forests throughout the Southern Rocky Mountains, USA. Using resultant maps, we also quantified spatial patterns of cumulative tree mortality throughout the region, an important yet poorly understood concept in beetle-affected forests. RF models using LTS products to predict presence and severity performed well, with 80.3% correctly classified (Kappa = 0.61) and R2 = 0.68 (RMSE = 17.3), respectively. We found that ≥10,256 km2 of subalpine forest area (39.5% of the study area) was affected by bark beetles and 19.3% of the study area experienced ≥70% tree mortality over the twenty-three year period. Variograms indicated that severity was autocorrelated at scales < 250 km. Interestingly, cumulative patch-size distributions showed that areas with a near-total loss of the overstory canopy (i.e., ≥90% mortality) were relatively small (<0.24 km2) and isolated throughout the study area. Our findings help to inform an understanding of the variable effects of bark beetle outbreaks across complex forested regions and provide insight into patterns of disturbance legacies, landscape connectivity, and susceptibility to future disturbance. View Full-Text
Keywords: biotic disturbances; Dendroctonus; disturbance severity; Dryocoetes; landsat time series; patch size; subalpine forests; variograms biotic disturbances; Dendroctonus; disturbance severity; Dryocoetes; landsat time series; patch size; subalpine forests; variograms
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MDPI and ACS Style

Rodman, K.C.; Andrus, R.A.; Butkiewicz, C.L.; Chapman, T.B.; Gill, N.S.; Harvey, B.J.; Kulakowski, D.; Tutland, N.J.; Veblen, T.T.; Hart, S.J. Effects of Bark Beetle Outbreaks on Forest Landscape Pattern in the Southern Rocky Mountains, U.S.A. Remote Sens. 2021, 13, 1089. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13061089

AMA Style

Rodman KC, Andrus RA, Butkiewicz CL, Chapman TB, Gill NS, Harvey BJ, Kulakowski D, Tutland NJ, Veblen TT, Hart SJ. Effects of Bark Beetle Outbreaks on Forest Landscape Pattern in the Southern Rocky Mountains, U.S.A. Remote Sensing. 2021; 13(6):1089. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13061089

Chicago/Turabian Style

Rodman, Kyle C.; Andrus, Robert A.; Butkiewicz, Cori L.; Chapman, Teresa B.; Gill, Nathan S.; Harvey, Brian J.; Kulakowski, Dominik; Tutland, Niko J.; Veblen, Thomas T.; Hart, Sarah J. 2021. "Effects of Bark Beetle Outbreaks on Forest Landscape Pattern in the Southern Rocky Mountains, U.S.A." Remote Sens. 13, no. 6: 1089. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs13061089

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