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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: White Spruce Regeneration Following a Major Spruce Beetle Outbreak in Forests on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Authors
item Boggs, Keith - U OF ALASKA ANCHORAGE
item Sturdy, Michelle - BRISTOL ENVIRO&ENGINEER C
item Rinella, Daniel - U OF ALASKA ANCHORAGE
item Rinella, Matthew

Submitted to: Forest Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 5, 2007
Publication Date: January 30, 2008
Citation: Boggs, K., Sturdy, M., Rinella, D.J., Rinella, M.J. 2008. White Spruce Regeneration Following a Major Spruce Beetle Outbreak in Forests on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Forest Ecology and Management 255:3571-3579.

Interpretive Summary: Between 1987 and 2000, a spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) epidemic infested 1.19 million hectares of spruce (Picea spp.) forests in Alaska, killing most of the large trees. We evaluated whether these forests would recover to their pre-outbreak density, and determined the site conditions on which spruce germinated and survived following the spruce beetle outbreak in forests of the Anchor River watershed, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. White spruce (Picea glauca) and Lutz spruce (Picea x lutzii), a hybrid between white and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), dominate the study area. We measured the pre- and post-outbreak density of spruce in 108 3 x 80 m plots across the study area by recording all live trees and all dead trees > 1.5 m tall in each plot. To determine the fine scale site conditions on which spruce germinated and survived, we measured ground surface and soil characteristics small plots around a subset of post-outbreak spruce seedlings. The density of post-outbreak spruce (855/ha) was adequate to restock the stands to their pre-outbreak densities for trees > 1.5 m tall (643/ha). We could not accurately estimate recovery for pre-outbreak spruce seedlings because dead seedlings may have decayed in the 5 to 18 years since the beetle-outbreak occurred. At the small-plot scale, spruce that germinated post-outbreak grew on a wide variety of soil types including downed log, stump, mesic organic mat, peat, hummocks, and mineral soil. They exhibited a strong preference for downed logs (53%) and stumps (4%), and most (91%) of the downed logs and stumps that spruce rooted on were heavily decayed. This preference for heavily decayed logs and stumps was especially evident given that their combined mean cover was only 2% in the 3 x 80 m plots. Within the 3 x 80 m plots, spruce seedling survival was negatively correlated with grass litter cover.

Technical Abstract: Between 1987 and 2000, a spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) epidemic infested 1.19 million hectares of spruce (Picea spp.) forests in Alaska, killing most of the large diameter trees. We evaluated whether these forests would recover to their pre-outbreak density, and determined the site conditions on which spruce germinated and survived following the spruce beetle outbreak in forests of the Anchor River watershed, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. White spruce (Picea glauca) and Lutz spruce (Picea x lutzii), a hybrid between white and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), dominate the study area. We measured the pre- and post-outbreak density of spruce in 108 3 x 80 m plots across the study area by recording all live trees and all dead trees > 1.5 m tall in each plot. To determine the fine scale site conditions on which spruce germinated and survived, we measured ground surface and soil characteristics within 20 cm circular plots around a subset of post-outbreak spruce seedlings. The density of post-outbreak spruce (855/ha) was adequate to restock the stands to their pre-outbreak densities for trees > 1.5 m tall (643/ha). We could not accurately estimate recovery for pre-outbreak spruce seedlings because dead seedlings may have decayed in the 5 to 18 years since the beetle-outbreak occurred. At the fine scale, spruce that germinated post-outbreak grew on a wide variety of soil types including downed log, stump, mesic organic mat, peat, hummocks, and mineral soil. They exhibited a strong preference for downed logs (53%) and stumps (4%), and most (91%) of the downed logs and stumps that spruce rooted on were heavily decayed. This preference for heavily decayed logs and stumps was especially evident given that their combined mean cover was only 2% in the 3 x 80 m plots. Within the 3 x 80 m plots, spruce seedling survival was negatively correlated with bluejoint (Calamagrostis canadensis) litter cover.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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