The mountain pine beetle (MPB) (Dendroctonus ponderosae
) is a bark beetle that attacks and kills ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa
), among other pine species throughout the western conifer forests of the United States and Canada, particularly in dense stands comprising large trees. There is information on the stand conditions that the insect prefers. However, there is a paucity of information on how small-scale variation in stand conditions influences the distribution of tree mortality within a stand. I examined the small-scale distribution of ponderosa pine basal area pre- and post a mountain pine beetle infestation, and used geostatistical modeling to relate the spatial distribution of the host to subsequent MPB-caused tree mortality. Results indicated increased mortality in the denser parts of the stand. Previous land management has changed historically open low-elevation ponderosa pine stands with aggregated tree distribution into dense stands that are susceptible to mountain pine beetles and intense fires. Current restoration efforts are aimed at reducing tree density and leaving clumps of trees, which are more similar to historical conditions. The residual clumps, however, may be susceptible to mountain pine beetle populations. Land managers will want to be cognizant of how mountain pine beetles will respond to restoration treatments, so as to prevent and mitigate tree mortality that could negate restoration efforts.
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