Modelling Spatial Interactions Among Fire, Spruce Budworm, and Logging in the Boreal Forest
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- James, P.M.A., Fortin, MJ., Sturtevant, B.R. et al. Ecosystems (2011) 14: 60. doi:10.1007/s10021-010-9395-5
In the boreal forest, fire, insects, and logging all affect spatial patterns in forest age and species composition. In turn, spatial legacies in age and composition can facilitate or constrain further disturbances and have important consequences for forest spatial structure and sustainability. However, the complex three-way interactions among fire, insects, and logging and their combined effects on forest spatial structure have seldom been investigated. We used a spatially explicit landscape simulation model to examine these interactions. Specifically, we investigated how the amount and the spatial scale of logging (cutblock size) in combination with succession, fire, and spruce budworm outbreaks affect area burned and area defoliated. Simulations included 30 replicates of 300 years for each of 19 different disturbance scenarios. More disturbances increased both the fragmentation and the proportion of coniferous species and imposed additional constraints on the extent of each disturbance. We also found that harvesting legacies affect fire and budworm differently due to differences in forest types consumed by each disturbance. Contrary to expectation, budworm defoliation did not affect area burned at the temporal scales studied and neither amount of logging nor cutblock size influenced defoliation extent. Logging increased fire size through conversion of more of the landscape to early seral, highly flammable forest types. Although logging increased the amount of budworm host species, spruce budworm caused mortality was reduced due to reductions in forest age. In general, we found that spatial legacies do not influence all disturbances equally and the duration of a spatial legacy is limited when multiple disturbances are present. Further information on post-disturbance succession is still needed to refine our understanding of long-term disturbance interactions.