The Status of Our Scientific Understanding of Lodgepole Pine and Mountain Pine Beetles - A Focus on Forest Ecology and Fire Behavior. Kaufmann, M. R.; Aplet, G. H.; Babler, M. G.; Baker, W. L.; Bentz, B.; Harrington, M.; Hawkes, B. C.; Huckaby, L. S.; Jenkins, M. J.; Kashian, D. M.; Keane, R. E.; Kulakowski, D.; McCaughey, W.; McHugh, C.; Negron, J.; Popp, J.; Romme, W. H.; Shepperd, W.; Smith, F. W.; Sutherland, E. K.; Tinker, D.; and Veblen, T. T. 2008(2):1–13.
The Status of Our Scientific Understanding of Lodgepole Pine and Mountain Pine Beetles - A Focus on Forest Ecology and Fire Behavior [link]Paper  abstract   bibtex   
A synthesis of our current knowledge about the effects of the mountain pine beetle epidemic on lodgepole pine forests and fire behavior, with a geographic focus on Colorado and southern Wyoming. [Excerpt: Implications for future forests] Models for predicting future climates have progressed dramatically in recent years, but their accuracy is questionable for planning purposes, particularly at local levels. Nonetheless, model predictions suggest significant alterations in climate from past observed patterns. These predictions are supported by recent climate events that themselves had largely been predicted several years ago. Therefore, the potential for future changes justifies thinking about future ecosystem dynamics that are very different from what we have seen in the last few centuries, including vegetation responses involving natural disturbance agents, species distribution, habitat suitability, and conservation of biodiversity. Areas at the elevational and latitudinal edges (ecotones) of lodgepole pine distribution may be the most likely to experience notable changes following the beetle epidemic. [] Our understanding of natural disturbance phenomena such as fire, drought, and insect epidemics under new climatic scenarios is inadequate for us to judge the likely consequences of future climatic conditions. We all observe and acknowledge that natural disturbances can be major change agents regardless of their cause. Climate warming may be contributing to substantial forest changes now, but there may be more subtle changes in the future as well. Through time forest species (including insect associates and other animal species, shrubs, grasses, and forbs as well as trees) may shift to other elevations and latitudes where habitats have become more suitable for them. Some species with rapid generation times, such as mountain pine beetle, may adapt to the changing climate. Alternatively, without adaptation local extinction in bark beetle populations could occur with increased warming due to a disruption of their tightly coupled developmental timing with local weather. Groups of species may migrate together or separately, perhaps leading to unanticipated new forest communities. We cannot make firm predictions about the makeup of future forests or the biodiversity associated with these forests. Regeneration and plant community restructuring in the landscape may follow novel pathways. Information is lacking, however, and extensive research (including use of monitoring data and reconstructions of past changes) is needed to relate potential future climate and the requirements and environmental amplitudes of species and communities. [] [...] [Summary] The current mountain pine beetle epidemic affecting lodgepole pine forests is an important ecological event with significant socio-economic implications. What will be the consequences for the affected ecosystems? How do we protect our communities and other human values at risk in ways that are socially and economically (as well as ecologically) feasible? These are difficult questions. This report has focused specifically on the ecology and fire behavior issues associated with lodgepole pine and the mountain pine beetle epidemic. We recognize that the socio-economic aspects are as important as the ecological issues, but they are beyond the scope of this report. [] Ecologically, much is known about lodgepole pine and mountain pine beetles. Even though the scale of the current epidemic is unprecedented over the past approximately 100 years of reliable observations, beetle-caused tree mortality at some scale has long been part of the dynamics of the lodgepole pine ecosystems. Similarly, fire behavior and its role in ecological processes and fuel management practices are relatively well understood. While we are confident about our general understanding, we have identified at least some scientific uncertainties about lodgepole pine, mountain pine beetle effects, and fire behavior that should be acknowledged and further researched. [] We are most concerned about several wildcard issues that create some uncertainty in applying what we know from science. The scale of this epidemic is larger than any mountain pine beetle epidemic studied thus far. We do not fully understand if or how the magnitude of this ecological event will affect future forests in terms of regeneration of the present species or transitions to different vegetation types. Furthermore, there is the question - both tantalizing and troubling - about possible climate change (including its rate, direction and magnitude) and the degree to which scientific findings need to be qualified as they are applied. [] If humans were not a part of the equation, forests would simply mature, die, and regenerate or be replaced by other vegetation types, following ecological trajectories over time driven by climate, environment, and species capabilities. Because humans cause changes in forests by choosing to live there and deriving economic services from them, our communities are impacted by forest changes, whether they are natural or not. Thus both the scale of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and the uncertainties about future forests leave us with questions that are important to us but may not be answerable with the knowledge we have now. [] Knowledge from scientific research about lodgepole pine and mountain pine beetles is valuable in two ways. It offers answers to some of the questions we have about forest ecology and provides valuable insight for management of these forests for ecological and community protection purposes. It also clarifies what we do not know. This is valuable not just to direct new research, but also to inform stakeholders of the degree of confidence they should have as land and natural resource management practices are considered. [] As noted in the introduction, science is a work in progress. Many of the scientific uncertainties discussed in this report already are receiving attention in the research community. Even as research continues, however, the scientific knowledge already available is usable by a wide variety of stakeholders and in the collaborative and adaptive management process. Adaptive management is perhaps best described as managing while learning on the fly. In this report, the scientific community provides information to managers and other stakeholders, but the scientific community also will help advance the knowledge base through lessons learned as management practices are planned, implemented, monitored, and evaluated. We humans must decide how to manage forests based upon their intrinsic value and natural processes as well as some desired future condition contingent on human wants and needs. We must be realistic about the degree to which we as observers, managers and stewards of the forest can affect what is happening now and what will happen in the future. Whatever we do from here should be done together. [] [...]
@article{kaufmannStatusOurScientific2008,
  title = {The Status of Our Scientific Understanding of Lodgepole Pine and Mountain Pine Beetles - {{A}} Focus on Forest Ecology and Fire Behavior},
  author = {Kaufmann, Merrill R. and Aplet, Gregory H. and Babler, Michael G. and Baker, William L. and Bentz, Barbara and Harrington, Michael and Hawkes, Brad C. and Huckaby, Laurie S. and Jenkins, Michael J. and Kashian, Daniel M. and Keane, Robert E. and Kulakowski, Dominik and McCaughey, Ward and McHugh, Charles and Negron, Jose and Popp, John and Romme, William H. and Shepperd, Wayne and Smith, Frederick W. and Sutherland, Elaine K. and Tinker, Daniel and Veblen, Thomas T.},
  date = {2008},
  journaltitle = {Global Fire Initiative technical report},
  volume = {2008},
  pages = {1--13},
  url = {http://mfkp.org/INRMM/article/14178840},
  abstract = {A synthesis of our current knowledge about the effects of the mountain pine beetle epidemic on lodgepole pine forests and fire behavior, with a geographic focus on Colorado and southern Wyoming.

[Excerpt: Implications for future forests] Models for predicting future climates have progressed dramatically in recent years, but their accuracy is questionable for planning purposes, particularly at local levels. Nonetheless, model predictions suggest significant alterations in climate from past observed patterns. These predictions are supported by recent climate events that themselves had largely been predicted several years ago. Therefore, the potential for future changes justifies thinking about future ecosystem dynamics that are very different from what we have seen in the last few centuries, including vegetation responses involving natural disturbance agents, species distribution, habitat suitability, and conservation of biodiversity. Areas at the elevational and latitudinal edges (ecotones) of lodgepole pine distribution may be the most likely to experience notable changes following the beetle epidemic.

[] Our understanding of natural disturbance phenomena such as fire, drought, and insect epidemics under new climatic scenarios is inadequate for us to judge the likely consequences of future climatic conditions. We all observe and acknowledge that natural disturbances can be major change agents regardless of their cause. Climate warming may be contributing to substantial forest changes now, but there may be more subtle changes in the future as well. Through time forest species (including insect associates and other animal species, shrubs, grasses, and forbs as well as trees) may shift to other elevations and latitudes where habitats have become more suitable for them. Some species with rapid generation times, such as mountain pine beetle, may adapt to the changing climate. Alternatively, without adaptation local extinction in bark beetle populations could occur with increased warming due to a disruption of their tightly coupled developmental timing with local weather. Groups of species may migrate together or separately, perhaps leading to unanticipated new forest communities. We cannot make firm predictions about the makeup of future forests or the biodiversity associated with these forests. Regeneration and plant community restructuring in the landscape may follow novel pathways. Information is lacking, however, and extensive research (including use of monitoring data and reconstructions of past changes) is needed to relate potential future climate and the requirements and environmental amplitudes of species and communities. 

[] [...]

[Summary] The current mountain pine beetle epidemic affecting lodgepole pine forests is an important ecological event with significant socio-economic implications. What will be the consequences for the affected ecosystems? How do we protect our communities and other human values at risk in ways that are socially and economically (as well as ecologically) feasible? These are difficult questions. This report has focused specifically on the ecology and fire behavior issues associated with lodgepole pine and the mountain pine beetle epidemic. We recognize that the socio-economic aspects are as important as the ecological issues, but they are beyond the scope of this report.

[] Ecologically, much is known about lodgepole pine and mountain pine beetles. Even though the scale of the current epidemic is unprecedented over the past approximately 100 years of reliable observations, beetle-caused tree mortality at some scale has long been part of the dynamics of the lodgepole pine ecosystems. Similarly, fire behavior and its role in ecological processes and fuel management practices are relatively well understood. While we are confident about our general understanding, we have identified at least some scientific uncertainties about lodgepole pine, mountain pine beetle effects, and fire behavior that should be acknowledged and further researched.

[] We are most concerned about several wildcard issues that create some uncertainty in applying what we know from science. The scale of this epidemic is larger than any mountain pine beetle epidemic studied thus far. We do not fully understand if or how the magnitude of this ecological event will affect future forests in terms of regeneration of the present species or transitions to different vegetation types. Furthermore, there is the question - both tantalizing and troubling - about possible climate change (including its rate, direction and magnitude) and the degree to which scientific findings need to be qualified as they are applied.

[] If humans were not a part of the equation, forests would simply mature, die, and regenerate or be replaced by other vegetation types, following ecological trajectories over time driven by climate, environment, and species capabilities. Because humans cause changes in forests by choosing to live there and deriving economic services from them, our communities are impacted by forest changes, whether they are natural or not. Thus both the scale of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and the uncertainties about future forests leave us with questions that are important to us but may not be answerable with the knowledge we have now.

[] Knowledge from scientific research about lodgepole pine and mountain pine beetles is valuable in two ways. It offers answers to some of the questions we have about forest ecology and provides valuable insight for management of these forests for ecological and community protection purposes. It also clarifies what we do not know. This is valuable not just to direct new research, but also to inform stakeholders of the degree of confidence they should have as land and natural resource management practices are considered.

[] As noted in the introduction, science is a work in progress. Many of the scientific uncertainties discussed in this report already are receiving attention in the research community. Even as research continues, however, the scientific knowledge already available is usable by a wide variety of stakeholders and in the collaborative and adaptive management process. Adaptive management is perhaps best described as managing while learning on the fly. In this report, the scientific community provides information to managers and other stakeholders, but the scientific community also will help advance the knowledge base through lessons learned as management practices are planned, implemented, monitored, and evaluated. We humans must decide how to manage forests based upon their intrinsic value and natural processes as well as some desired future condition contingent on human wants and needs. We must be realistic about the degree to which we as observers, managers and stewards of the forest can affect what is happening now and what will happen in the future. Whatever we do from here should be done together. 

[] [...]},
  keywords = {*imported-from-citeulike-INRMM,~INRMM-MiD:c-14178840,bark-beetle,dead-wood,dendroctonus-ponderosae,disturbances,ecology,fire-fuel,forest-pests,forest-resources,fuel-moisture,habitat-suitability,knowledge-integration,pinus-contorta,wildfires},
  number = {2}
}
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