, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 917–931

Future Spruce Budworm Outbreak May Create a Carbon Source in Eastern Canadian Forests


    • Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service
    • Ministry of Forests and Range, Government of British Columbia
  • Eric T. Neilson
    • Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service
  • Graham Stinson
    • Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service
  • Kevin Porter
    • Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service
  • David A. MacLean
    • Faculty of Forestry and Environmental ManagementUniversity of New Brunswick
  • David R. Gray
    • Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service
  • Michel Campagna
    • Ressources Naturelles et faune Québec
  • Werner A. Kurz
    • Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service

DOI: 10.1007/s10021-010-9364-z

Cite this article as:
Dymond, C.C., Neilson, E.T., Stinson, G. et al. Ecosystems (2010) 13: 917. doi:10.1007/s10021-010-9364-z


Spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana Clem.) is an important and recurrent disturbance throughout spruce (Picea sp.) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea L.) dominated forests of North America. Forest carbon (C) dynamics in these ecosystems are affected during insect outbreaks because millions of square kilometers of forest suffer growth loss and mortality. We tested the hypothesis that a spruce budworm outbreak similar to those in the past could switch a forest from a C sink to a source in the near future. We used a model of ecosystem C to integrate past spruce budworm impact sequences with current forest management data on 106,000 km2 of forest in eastern Québec. Spruce budworm-caused mortality decreased stand-level merchantable C stocks by 11–90% and decreased ecosystem C stocks by 2–10% by the end of the simulation. For the first 13 years (2011–2024), adding spruce budworm significantly reduced ecosystem C stock change for the landscape from a sink (4.6 ± 2.7 g C m−2 y−1 in 2018) to a source (−16.8 ± 3.0 g C m−2 y−1 in 2018). This result was mostly due to reduced net primary production. The ecosystem stock change was reduced on average by 2 Tg C y−1 for the entire simulated area. This study provides the first estimate that spruce budworm can significantly affect the C sink or source status of a large landscape. These results indicate that reducing spruce budworm impacts on timber may also provide an opportunity to mitigate a C source.


carbon cyclenet primary productionnet biome productionboreal forestdefoliationecosystem carbonCBM-CFS3ecosystem stock change

Supplementary material

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© Springer 2010