Kristen Pelz - A case for restoration to subalpine forests following bark beetle mortality
Recent bark beetle outbreaks have prompted calls for increased management of subalpine forest in the southern Rocky Mountains. However, bark beetles play an important role in forest regeneration dynamics of these systems. Subalpine forests affected by mountain pine beetle are dominated by lodgepole pine, but often have components of quaking aspen, subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce. Beetle outbreaks shift the relative recruitment success and growth of these four species, affecting forest composition and structure for decades. This, in turn, will affect socially and ecologically important processes, such as those related to fire behavior, wildlife use, and water yield, for decades to come. Based on current conditions in beetle affected forests, to what extent can we predict future species composition? Where may we expect recruits of aspen, Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, or subalpine fir to thrive post-beetle? And, what might desirable future compositions be in these forests and is management necessary to encourage them?