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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Consequences of climate-induced range expansion of a native invasive herbivore in western Canada Burke, Jordan Lewis


Global climate change is affecting species from all taxonomic groups. Their response to warming and precipitation trends is highly variable, and will likely lead to changes in ecosystem composition that may affect resilience and stability. Eruptive forest insects compete directly with humans for forest resources, and the distribution and magnitude of epidemics is increasing. Here, I describe a series of manipulative experiments using the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) system to examine biological and life history traits of both the beetle and hosts as they pertain to eruptive population dynamics and range expansion in a warming environment. Mountain pine beetle exhibits population phase-dependent host selection behavior, which I demonstrated is informed directly by monoterpene volatiles in host resin, and reinforced by context-dependent maternal effects arising from parental experience. Recently, mountain pine beetles have experienced dramatic range expansion into novel montane and boreal forests of western Canada. Depressed defensive capability of trees in novel forests may increase generation survival of beetle populations, potentially exacerbating outbreaks in novel systems, and enhance positive feedbacks associated with epidemic phases. Of particular concern is the tendency for elevated levels of α-pinene, an aggregation pheromone precursor, in the defensive resin of trees in novel habitats. I demonstrated that the qualitative content of monoterpenes, specifically the relative concentration of (+)- and (-)-α-pinene, influences the ability of the beetle to aggregate and mass-attack healthy hosts, and may exacerbate outbreaks on a landscape scale, thereby potentially increasing the rate of spread of beetles in novel forests. Finally, I demonstrated that the close association of mountain pine beetle with the defensive expression of hosts has led to selection in native forests for enhanced defenses, and a lack of coevolution in novel forests has likely led to the increased susceptibility to mortality. The present study has advanced our knowledge of eruptive insect dynamics and the response of these economically important species to climate change. This thesis contributes to the body of knowledge pertaining to ecological theory of population dynamics and invasion biology, and identifies areas for further study and effort to mitigate the biological consequences of anthropogenic modification to the environment.

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