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Disturbances — Fire, Insects, Disease

Climate Drivers of Fire and Fuel in the Northern Rockies: Past, Present and Future

RMRS scientists have data on fire extent and climate from almost four centuries (1650-2003) in the Idaho and western Montana. Through all that time, 10% of all years experienced extensive fires. These years of widespread fire (>100,000 ha in 20th century) are characterized by warm, dry summers and warm springs. Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) was a strong driver of modern (1900-2003), but not historical (1630-1900) regional fire years; El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) was not a significant driver of historical or modern fires. If climate continues to change as predicted, we will continue to have widespread fires in the northern Rockies. Our data corroborate and support Westerling et al.'s (2006) findings that climate variability and climate change are contributing to larger and more extensive fires across the West, but especially in the northern Rockies. We parameterized vegetation simulation model with information from these fire history data to simulate potential consequences of regional climate-fire interactions and management strategies on landscape patterns.

Contact Carol Miller or Emily Heyerdahl for additional information.

Climate Change Influences on Mountain Pine Beetle and Spruce Beetle Phenology and Associated Impacts in Western North American Forests

RMRS scientists have established the relationship between climate and insects such as mountain pine beetle and the spruce beetle. Scientists continue to monitor mountain pine beetle phenology and temperatures in high elevation forests in western US. In conjunction with current, historic and predicted temperatures, they are using this data and their phenology model to evaluate how current trends might relate to historic patterns of mountain pine beetle caused mortality in these forests, as well as, predicting trends for the future. Working with Canadian collaborators, they have developed a cold tolerance model for mountain pine beetle using data from the recent mountain pine beetle infestations in Alberta. In conjunction with their phenology model, they aim to evaluate the relative effects of temperature on cold-induced mortality and seasonality of mountain pine beetle population success and range expansion. They also are investigating spruce beetle physiological response to temperature, including diapause, to improve and further refine a phenology model for this insect. Like their phenology model for mountain pine beetle, a phenology model for spruce beetle can be used to evaluate insect response to climate change.

Contact Barbara Bentz for additional information.