Plant-microbe-animal interactions - Original research


, Volume 174, Issue 4, pp 1283-1292

First online:

Resin duct characteristics associated with tree resistance to bark beetles across lodgepole and limber pines

  • Scott FerrenbergAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, UCB 334 Email author 
  • , Jeffrey M. KaneAffiliated withDepartment of Forestry and Wildland Resources, Humboldt State University
  • , Jeffry B. MittonAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, UCB 334

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Bark beetles have recently killed billions of trees, yet conifer defenses are formidable and some trees resist attack. A primary anti-insect defense of pines is oleoresin from a system of resin ducts throughout the tree. Resin defense traits are heritable, and evidence suggests that resin duct characteristics are associated with resistance to insects. However, comparisons of resin ducts in trees killed by bark beetles to trees that resisted attack are unavailable. We compared vertical resin duct characteristics (number, density, and size) and growth rates from trees that were “resistant” (survived mass attack) versus “susceptible” (killed by attack) to bark beetles in lodgepole (Pinus contorta) and limber (Pinus flexilis) pines. Resistant trees of both species had significantly more resin ducts in recent growth than susceptible trees. Discriminant analysis (DA) correctly categorized 84 % of lodgepole and 92 % of limber pines as susceptible/resistant based on combinations of resin duct and growth characteristics from recent 5- through 20-year growth intervals. DA models using measures from only the most recent 5 years of growth correctly categorized 72 and 81 % of lodgepole and limber pines, respectively. Comparing resistant to susceptible trees independent of species identity led to the correct categorization of 82 % of trees based on factors from 5- to 20-year intervals, and 73 % of trees using only resin duct counts from the most recent 5 years. We conclude that resin duct characteristics can be used to assess tree resistance to bark beetles across pine species, and offer a metric for management to enhance pest resistance.


Bark beetles Dendroctonus ponderosae Plant defense Resin ducts Resistance mechanisms