Current issue: 56(4)
There is no doubt that tree survival, growth, and reproduction in North America's boreal forests would be directly influenced by the projected changes in climate if they occur. The indirect effects of climate change may be of even greater importance, however, because of their potential for altering the intensity, frequency, and perhaps even the very nature of the disturbance regimes which drive boreal forest dynamics. Insect defoliator populations are one of the dominating disturbance factors in North America's boreal forests and during outbreaks trees are often killed over vast forest areas. If the predicted shifts in climate occur, the damage patterns caused by insects may be considerably changed, particularly those of insects whose temporal and spatial distributions are singularly dependent on climatic factors. The ensuing uncertainties directly affect depletion forecasts, pest hazard rating procedures, and long-term planning for pest control requirements. Because the potential for wildfire often increases in stands after insect attack, uncertainties in future insect damage patterns also lead to uncertainties in fire regimes. In addition, because the rates of processes key to biogeochemical and nutrient recycling are influenced by insect damage, potential changes in damage patterns can indirectly affect ecosystem resilience and the sustainability of the multiple uses of the forest resource.
In this paper, a mechanistic perspective is developed based on available information describing how defoliating forest insects might respond to climate warming. Because of its prevalence and long history of study, the spruce budworm, Choristoneura fumiferana Clem. (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae), is used for illustrative purposes in developing this perspective. The scenarios that follow outline the potential importance of threshold behaviour, historical conditions, phenological relationships, infrequent but extreme weather, complex feedbacks, and natural selection. The urgency of such considerations is emphasized by reference to research suggesting that climate warming may already be influencing some insect lifecycles.
The study area is state owned forest of Vesijako in southern middle Finland that has earlier been intensively managed with slash-and-burn agriculture and then partly reforested with foreign coniferous tree species after controlled burnings. The total area planted with foreign species consists of 66 sample areas, altogether 28 hectares. The data has been collected in summer 1909.
The most of studied sample areas have been unsuccessful, but there are still many areas that are too young to be assessed. The originally with foreign species reforested areas are now pine stands. The tree species in experiments have been e.g. larch (Larix sibirica and L. europaea), Siberian stone pine (Pinus cembra sibirica), Siberian fir (Abies sibirica o. pichta), balsam fir (Abies balsamea), white fir (Abies pectinate also Abies alba), white spruce (Picea alba also Picea glauca), Weymouth pinen (Pinus strobus) and European / Swiss mountain pine (Pinus montana also P. mugo, P. mugho).The most important result of the experiments with controlled burning is that stand of grey alder (Alnus incana) with only low economic value can be effectively altered into coniferous forests (Pinus silvestris).
The Green River precommercial thinning (PCT) trial was established between 1959–1961 in New Brunswick (Canada) within natural balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.)-dominated stands. Three silviculture scenarios differing only by the increasing nominal spacings of PCT treatments (1.2 m, 1.8 m, 2.4 m) were compared to an unthinned control within randomized replicates that were clearcut harvested in 2008 and treated with herbicide in 2011. During the fourth post-harvest growing season, we assessed regeneration, competing vegetation and coarse woody debris (CWD; differentiated between large woody debris and slash) to assess the legacy effects of PCT on regeneration of next rotation stands. Our results confirmed that silviculture scenarios including PCT significantly increased conifer stocking in treated plots compared to control conditions, but only in the 1.8 m nominal spacing. Considering that treated and untreated stands were fully stocked, we conclude that PCT using the spacing gradient tested has no legacy effect on the regeneration of next rotation natural balsam fir stands. Given the known sensitivity of balsam fir to future climate conditions in this region, we suggest that future treatments should promote tree species diversity to support ecosystem resilience to climate change by favouring more warm-adapted species, such as some hardwoods.