The mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) is a native bark beetle of forests in BC, and there is documented evidence of outbreaks dating back to 1910. The current outbreak is substantially larger than past, documented outbreaks, and it is possible that management-induced changes to forest structure through fire suppression and forestry practices, and the mounting evidence of a changing climate, have contributed to an outbreak that is well outside the natural range of variation. The purpose of this project is to determine the magnitude and synchrony of historical beetle outbreaks in sub-boreal forests of BC, and to relate those with changes in biologically relevant climate factors that influence beetle population dynamics. The geographic focus of the study is on the north-central part of BC, a region that in the past has been less conducive to large-scale mpb outbreaks, less influenced by fire suppression, and, because of its proximity to the northern limit of the beetle’s range, should be very sensitive to climatic fluctuations. Using the combined outbreak and climate reconstructions, we will be able to determine whether or not the current outbreak in this area is due to the enormous population build-up alone, or whether changes in climate have played a role. The information generated by this study can then be applied to predictive models for assessing future outbreak risk and consequences under various climate change scenarios.
Kate holds a Masters and Bachelors degree in geography from Portland State University and Radford University in the US. Her broad interests are in forest ecology, vegetation dynamics and climate change, with a specific focus on disturbance ecology in western conifer forests. Kate’s research is largely dependent on paleoecological reconstructions using tree rings as indicators of past forest disturbance and environmental drivers of forest change.