Spatial variability in tree regeneration after wildfire delays and dampens future bark beetle outbreaks

In this study, researchers concluded that variability in tree regeneration after disturbance can dampen and delay future disturbance by breaking spatiotemporal synchrony on the landscape. This highlights the importance of fostering landscape variability in the context of ecosystem management given changing disturbance regimes.

Climate change is altering the frequency and severity of forest disturbances such as wildfires and bark beetle outbreaks, thereby increasing the potential for sequential disturbances to interact. Interactions can amplify or dampen disturbances, yet the direction and magnitude of future disturbance interactions are difficult to anticipate because underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood.

This study tested how variability in postfire forest development affects future susceptibility to bark beetle outbreaks, focusing on mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) and Douglas-fir beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae) in forests regenerating from the large high-severity fires that affected Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in 1988.