Canadian Forest Service Publications

Mechanisms underlying spruce budworm outbreak processes as elucidated by a 14-year study in New Brunswick, Canada

Year: 2017

Available from: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 39576

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1002/ecm.1270

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Abstract

We conducted a 14-yr intensive study of spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana (Clem.)) survivorship at three study plots in largely balsam fir (Abies balsamea (L.) Mill.) stands in New Brunswick, Canada, to elucidate certain key mechanisms underlying spruce budworm outbreak cycles. The study covered a peak-to-declining phase (from 1981 and 1994) of the budworm outbreak cycle that had started in the early 1960s. Frequent sampling was carried out in each plot-year to construct a practically continuous survivorship curve, and the annual variation in population density was estimated. We found a high level of correlation between the studied phase of the outbreak cycle and annual variations in the survivorship over the postdiapause period, suggesting that postdiapause survivorship was the chief determinant of the cycle. We found the annual changes in population density in the present study to be closely similar in pattern to those from the provincial budworm surveys conducted in much larger areas. This implies that the mechanism underlying the population process found in the few study plots in largely balsam fir stands also applies to the process in much larger areas of diverse stand types. The main source of postdiapause mortality is found to be natural enemies. The impacts of parasitoids and disease are evaluated by rearing budworm samples in the laboratory. Hymenopteran and dipteran parasitoids are by far the major sources of mortality, and microsporidians are the most prevalent pathogen. Occurrences of other entomopathogenic fungi and viruses were insignificant throughout the study. Seasonal changes in laboratory survivorship are compared with the corresponding field survivorship to estimate the effect of predation. No major mortality factor is found to singly play a predominant role in determining the outbreak cycle. Conversely, some minor factors are shown to have played significant roles. Thus, the importance of recognizing the action of natural enemies as a complex is emphasized for understanding the budworm outbreak cycle. Finally, centered on the roles played by the chronological succession of natural enemies in the present study, the results of budworm research in New Brunswick since the mid-1940s are synthesized to outline basic mechanisms underlying the outbreak processes as a guide for further studies.

Plain Language Summary

A 14-year intensive study of spruce budworm survivorship at three study plots in largely balsam fir stands in New Brunswick, Canada, was conducted to elucidate certain key mechanisms underlying spruce budworm outbreak cycles. Our study covered the peak-to-declining phase of the budworm outbreak cycle that had started in the early 1960s. Frequent sampling was carried out in each plot-year to construct a practically continuous survivorship curve, and the annual variation in population density was estimated. We found that postdiapause survivorship (i.e., survival from spring emergence of larvae to the moth stage) was the main determinant of the cycle. The main source of postdiapause mortality was natural enemies. The impacts of insect parasitoids and disease were evaluated by rearing budworm samples in the laboratory. Parasitic wasps and flies were the major sources of mortality, and microsporidians were the most prevalent pathogen. Occurrences of other fungi and viruses were insignificant. Seasonal changes in laboratory survivorship were compared with the corresponding field survivorship to estimate the effect of predation. No major mortality factor was found to singly play a predominant role in determining the outbreak cycle. Conversely, some minor factors played significant roles. Thus, the importance of recognizing the action of all natural enemies in the food web as a complex, not as single factors, is emphasized for understanding the budworm outbreak cycle.

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