Background Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins; MPB), a bark beetle native to western North America, has caused vast areas of tree mortality over the last several decades. The majority of this mortality has been in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Douglas ex Loudon) forests and has heightened concerns over the potential for extreme fire behavior across large landscapes.
Understanding the causes and consequences of rapid environmental change is an essential scientific frontier, particularly given the threat of climate- and land use-induced changes in disturbance regimes. In western North America, recent widespread insect outbreaks and wildfires have sparked acute concerns about potential insect–fire interactions.
Recent large scale mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, MPB) outbreaks have created concern regarding increased fuel loadings and exacerbated fire behavior and have prompted a desire to understand the effects of sequential disturbances on the landscape.
Induced defense is a common plant strategy in response to herbivory. Although abiotic damage, such as physical wounding, pruning, and heating, can induce plant defense, the effect of such damage by large-scale abiotic disturbances on induced defenses has not been explored and could have important consequences for plant survival facing future biotic disturbances.
Bark beetle outbreaks and wildfires are principal drivers of change in western North American forests, and both have increased in severity and extent in recent years. These two agents of disturbance interact in complex ways to shape forest structure and composition.