Changes in stand structure in uneven-aged lodgepole pine stands impacted by mountain pine beetle epidemics and fires in central British Columbia

Publication Type:Journal Article
Authors:J. N. Axelson, Alfaro, R. I., Hawkes, B. C.
Journal:Forestry Chronicle
Date Published:January-February
:Dendroctonus ponderosae

We examined the development of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl.) in uneven-aged stands in the Interior Douglas-fir (IDF) biogeoclimatic zone of central of British Columbia (B.C.), which are currently undergoing a massive outbreak of the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins; MPB). Using historical ecological approaches, dendrochronology, and stand measurement data, we determined the roles MPB and fire disturbances have played in the ecological processes of lodgepole pine in an Interior Douglas-fir zone. We found that multi le mixed-severity fires created patchy uneven-aged stands dominated by lodgepole pine. Since fire suppression in the 20th century, multiple MPB disturbances have maintained the structural complexity of the stands and favoured regeneration of lodgepole pine in the understory despite the absence of fire, resulting in self-perpetuating multi-age lodgepole pine stands. Analysis of the stand structures remaining after multiple MPB outbreaks showed that, even with high overstory mortality, the sample stands contained several MPB-initiated cohorts, consisting of younger and smaller-diameter lodgepole pine. These surviving lodgepole pine layers, which are less susceptible to beetle, will provide important ecological legacies, and could play an important role in the mid-term timber supply chain. We concluded that, in the absence of fire, the MPB plays a more frequent role in directing stand dynamics and structure in uneven-aged lodgepole pine stands resulting in self-perpetuating complex stands in the central interior. We compared and contrasted these findings with those obtained in "even-aged" lodgepole pine stands, also in the Interior Douglas-fir zone in the southern interior, which were investigated in an earlier study.

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