Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 49, Issue 2–3, pp 235–249 | Cite as

Influences of Climatic Change on Some Ecological Processes of an Insect Outbreak System in Canada's Boreal Forests and the Implications for Biodiversity

  • Richard A. Fleming
  • Jean-Noël Candau


Insect outbreaks are a major disturbance factor in Canadian forests. If global warming occurs, the disturbance patterns caused by insects may change substantially, especially for those insects whose distributions depend largely on climate. In addition, the likelihood of wildfire often increases after insect attack, so the unpredictability of future insect disturbance patterns adds to the general uncertainty of fire regimes. The rates of processes fundamental to energy, nutrient, and biogeochemical cycling are also affected by insect disturbance, and through these effects, potential changes in disturbance patterns indirectly influence biodiversity. A process-level perspective is advanced to describe how the major insect outbreak system in Canadian forests, that of the spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana Clem. [Lepidoptera: Tortricidae]), might react to global warming. The resulting scenarios highlight the possible importance of natural selection, extreme weather, phenological relationships, complex feedbacks, historical conditions, and threshold behavior. That global warming already seems to be affecting the lifecycles of some insects points to the timeliness of this discussion. Some implications of this process-level perspective for managing the effects of global warming on biodiversity are discussed. The value of process-level understanding and high-resolution, long-term monitoring in attacking such problems is emphasized. It is argued that a species-level, preservationist approach may have unwanted side-effects, be cost-ineffective, and ecologically unsustainable.

biodiversity boreal forest Choristoneura fumiferana climate change disturbance insect outbreaks spruce budworm 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Fleming
    • 1
  • Jean-Noël Candau
    • 1
  1. 1.Great Lakes Forest Research Centre, Canadian Forest Service, Sault SteMarieCANADA

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