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Modeling mountain pine beetle disturbance in Glacier National Park using multiple lines of evidence

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Abstract

Temperate forest ecosystems are subject to various disturbances which contribute to ecological legacies that can have profound effects on the structure of the ecosystem. Impacts of disturbance can vary widely in extent, duration and severity over space and time. Given that global climate change is expected to increase rates of forest disturbance, an understanding of these events are critical in the interpretation of contemporary forest patterns and those of the near future. We seek to understand the impact of the 1970s mountain pine beetle outbreak on the landscape of Glacier National Park and investigate any connection between this event and subsequent decades of extensive wildfire. The lack of spatially explicit data on the mountain pine beetle disturbance represents a major data gap and inhibits our ability to test for correlations between outbreak severity and fire severity. To overcome this challenge, we utilized multiple lines of evidence to model forest canopy mortality as a proxy for outbreak severity. We used historical aerial and landscape photos, reports, aerial survey data, a six year collection of Landsat imagery and abiotic data in combination with regression analysis. The use of remotely sensed data is critical in large areas where subsequent disturbance (fire) has erased some of the evidence from the landscape. Results indicate that this method is successful in capturing the spatial heterogeneity of the outbreak in a topographically complex landscape. Furthermore, this study provides an example on the use of existing data to reduce levels of uncertainty associated with an historic disturbance.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Abstract or summary
Title Modeling mountain pine beetle disturbance in Glacier National Park using multiple lines of evidence
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Association of American Geographers
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Conference Title Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
Conference Location Chicago, IL
Conference Date 2013-04-13T00:00:00