USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

 
Pacific Southwest
Research Station

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Publications and Products

Title: Changes in understory vegetation including invasive weeds following mountain pine beetle outbreaks

Authors: Runyon, Justin B.; Fettig, Christopher J.; Trilling, Jared A.; Munson, A. Steven; Mortenson, Leif A.; Steed, Brytten E.; Gibson, Kenneth E.; Jørgensen, Carl L.; McKelvey, Stephen R.; McMillin, Joel D.; Audley, Jackson P.; Negron, Jose F.

Date: 2020

Source Trees, Forests and People. 2: 100038.

Abstract: Bark beetle outbreaks alter forests in many ways including stand structure, fuels and fire behavior, wildlife habitat, and aesthetic value. Less understood are the effects outbreaks have on understory vegetation, despite the importance for overstory succession, nutrient cycling, water quality, soil erosion, and wildlife. Beetle outbreaks also change forests in ways that could promote invasion by nonnative weeds, but this is rarely studied. We assessed changes in cover of understory vegetation and presence/abundance of weeds in lodgepole pine forests in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, USA following recent mountain pine beetle outbreaks. Incipient beetle populations began in 2004, peaked around 2008, and returned to endemic levels by 2012. Understory vegetation was sampled in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2018. Total understory cover and cover of shrubs and graminoids remained unchanged, while cover of forbs generally increased. Forb cover was negatively correlated with shrub and canopy cover. Approximately 20% of plots contained weeds and weed abundance increased over time. Presence of weeds was negatively correlated with graminoid cover and positively correlated with tree mortality and snag fall. By 2018, weed abundance was only positively correlated with snag fall. Localized soil disturbance created when snags uproot and fall appears to act as sites of weed invasion and proliferation. Lastly, we provide a global review of the effects of bark beetle outbreaks on understory vegetation which reveals a prevailing short-term increase following outbreaks, but the magnitude of response and cover type affected varies with beetle species/forest type and time since outbreak.

Keywords: bark beetles, Dendroctonus ponderosae, disturbance Invasive plants, literature review, Pinus contorta, Scolytinae

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Citation

    Runyon, Justin B.; Fettig, Christopher J.; Trilling, Jared A.; Munson, A. Steven; Mortenson, Leif A.; Steed, Brytten E.; Gibson, Kenneth E.; Jørgensen, Carl L.; McKelvey, Stephen R.; McMillin, Joel D.; Audley, Jackson P.; Negron, Jose F. 2020. Changes in understory vegetation including invasive weeds following mountain pine beetle outbreaks. Trees, Forests and People. 2: 100038.
Last Modified: December 11, 2020