UBC Undergraduate Research

Climate change effects on eruptive forest insects : a review and synthesis of empirical evidence Marciniak, Amberly


Global climate change is affecting ecosystems through warming temperatures, changing precipitation, and increasing climatic variability. One of the major impacts is the alteration of forest disturbance regimes, including forest insect outbreaks that cause landscape-scale tree mortality and significantly affect the composition, function, and socioeconomic value of forests. Many studies have been conducted and models created to predict how future climate change may affect forest insects, but it may also be useful to determine how insects have already responded in order to detect where knowledge may be lacking and which species may be of most concern in future forest management. For this thesis, research papers providing empirical evidence to show a definitive climate change effect on an eruptive forest insect were identified and reviewed. The selected papers were then synthesized into a predictive framework for the likely responses of specific forest insect groups or species to changes in temperature or precipitation. Bark beetles and defoliators were the two functional groups for which evidence was found. All evidence pointed to bark beetle species responding positively to warming temperatures and decreasing precipitation through range expansion and increases in outbreak extent and severity. Evidence was less straightforward for defoliators, as some species, but not all, showed a negative response to warmer temperatures due to increasing asynchrony between insect emergence and host tree budburst on which they depend for food and survival.

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