The mountain pine beetle epidemic that has occurred in western Canada has affected more than 19 million hectares of forest land in British Columbia and Alberta, resulting in mortality of over 1 billion cubic metres of mature pine trees and affecting the ecological integrity of western Canadian pine forest. In addition to affecting timber volumes, mountain pine beetle infestations impact the availability of plant and wildlife habitats, limit recreational opportunities, alter hydrological cycles and limit the range of ecosystem services at the landscape scale.
The NSERC Turning Risk Into Action for the Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic Network (TRIA-Net) team provides knowledge and tools to help decision-makers combat the mountain pine beetle outbreak.
The mountain pine beetle is poised to continue its northward and eastward range expansion, including spread into the jack pine forests that extend across Canada, and that are an important component of the boreal forest. Understanding the factors that influence mountain pine beetle dynamics is vital to designing effective spread control programs, particularly in the novel habitats to which the outbreak has spread in recent years, where conditions may be quite different than those in the beetle’s historic range. Understanding these factors is also critical for assessing risk to regions not yet impacted by the mountain pine beetle.
Cross-scale ecosystem challenges require cross-scale research teams. TRIA-Net brings together a diverse and well-rounded team of 18 co-investigators and collaborators to address the persistence and spread of the beetle and potential damage to Canada’s Boreal pines from a multi-faceted, interdisciplinary and coherent perspective:
The research team has partnered with a number of government, industry, and not-for-profit organizations, including Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources Development, Foothills Research Institute, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship, Natural Resources Canada – Canadian Forest Service, Northwest Territories Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, West Fraser and Weyerhaeuser to ensure that outcomes from this research can inform decision-making in real time.
TRIA-Net researchers are using a new approach that integrates genomics, molecular analyses, population genetics, systematics, ecology, population dynamics, and modeling to improve our understanding of how mountain pine beetles interact with their pine hosts and the fungal symbionts carried by the beetles and how environmental conditions affect these interactions. Unique to this approach will be research in how the genetics of these organisms influence the spread of this pest. These insights will inform the development of new tools and improvement of existing tools, such as models that assess and forecast the risk of mountain pine beetle spread. Researchers will use these forecasts, together with models of the cumulative effects of mountain pine beetle infestations on multiple ecosystem services, to identify regions according to their vulnerability to mountain pine beetle outbreaks.
This integrated and multidisciplinary approach taken by the TRIA-Net research team and partner organizations intends to yield fundamentally new insights and management tools for practitioners to monitor, assess and predict risk and vulnerability of forest ecosystems to mountain pine beetle, thus enabling knowledge-based policy development and informed management decisions to be made.
Dr. Janice Cooke, Network Director
University of Alberta
Dr. Joerg Bohlmann, Network Co-Director
The University of British Columbia
Mr. Matthew Bryman, Network Manager
University of Alberta