Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Natural Resources

First Advisor

Anthony W. D'Amato

Abstract

Forest pests, the most significant agent of disturbance in forested ecosystems of North America, are highly sensitive to climate change. Southern pine beetle (SPB) is a highly destructive pine forest pest that is expanding its historic range in the southeastern US to affect the globally rare northeastern pitch pine barrens as winter temperatures warm. By generating high levels of mortality in canopy pitch pine, SPB is accelerating the ongoing conversion of fire-dependent pine barrens to mesophilic forests. We aimed to support the adaptive management of pine barrens ecosystems in the context of these two threats by (1) assessing stand conditions and management outcomes within two inland pine barrens and (2) developing a hazard rating model that predicts stand-level SPB susceptibility. Our findings support the concept of pine barrens as a landscape mosaic maintained by human and environmental disturbance regimes. Hazard ratings show that SPB susceptibility increases with increasing pitch pine basal area, previous year SPB detections nearby, and on sandy soils. Stands with pitch pine basal areas less than 15 m2/ha appeared to be less susceptible to SPB infestation. This tool can help reduce landscape-scale vulnerability to SPB by supporting land managers in the identification and prioritization of high hazard stands for prevention treatments. An alignment between treatments effective in reducing SPB vulnerability and conserving the pine barrens mosaic (primarily thinning and prescribed fire) indicates that pine barrens can be managed both to improve resilience to future threats and preserve historic ecological conditions.

Language

en

Number of Pages

85 p.

Available for download on Tuesday, October 04, 2022

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