Eckehard Brockerhoff (New Zealand Forest Research Institute, Rotorua, NZ) and Ferenc Lakatos (University of Western Hungary, Sopron) opened the bark beetle conference on behalf of IUFRO on Wednesday morning. The 75 delegates came from Greece, Canada, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Algeria, USA, Italy, Belgium, Slovakia, France, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Croatia, Australia, Germany, Wales, and South Korea. Sadly, the US Forest Service had no funds to send delegates.
Ferenc, the main conference organizer, gave an overview of the current situation in Hungary. Their forests are dominated by deciduous species like oaks and beech; there are Scolytidae beetles such as S multistriatus, Xyleborus spp, and Platypus cylindrus.
Due to invasions, rising temperatures and decreasing precipitation, conifers have been affected in every forest in Hungary. Norway spruce gone from 27% to 13% since 1974. Beech distribution has been shrinking dramatically, and the composition and distribution of tree species has a big impact on bug diversity.
One of the most interesting things we learned at this conference was how much windstorms and drought can create ideal conditions for a bark beetle outbreak. For example, Hervé Jactel gave a presentation about what happened after Cyclone Klaus hit France in January, 2009 and affected 70% of their forests: there was a masssive outbreak of Ips sexdentatus the next year.
On a coffee break, Les Safranyik explained to us how he and other researchers realized why a large tract of conifers near the Cariboo Mountains in BC had died. A powerful wind storm had rocked the trees, not enough to knock them over, but the movement destroyed the fine roots. The trees were then more vulnerable to beetle attack.
Allan Carroll of UBC gave an interesting and somewhat disturbing presentation on Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) range expansion into northern Alberta. Whereas Lodgepole has been the primary host, it’s now starting to show up in Jack pine hybrids and Jack pines, with a projected mortality of 67% by 2020.
According to Allan, there was three times as much susceptible pine at the start of our most recent outbreak compared to a severe infestation in 1910, mainly because of fire suppression and also some selective harvesting. With the 1-2 degrees increase in mean annual temperatures since 1950, we have had a 75% increase in suitable conditions for MPB. A third of the outbreak is located beyond previous cold limitation line.
Allan predicts that lodgepole pines “with experience” will have more effective defenses than “naive” pines like the jack pines and hybrid species.
We also heard presentations on the engraver beetle in Italy’s Dolomites, spruce bark beetles (SBB), ambrosia beetles in Korea, bark beetles and long horned & borer beetles affecting wood packaging and palettes in container ships, bark beetles in Sitka spruce in Wales, and pheromone traps.
Bjørn Økland of Norway discussed the possibility of new pests entering Eurasian forests, such as the bronze birch borer, MPB (if it got into Scots pine in northern Europe, 42% of trees could be vulnerable), SBB, pinewood nematode and emerald ash borer.
Ours was the last presentation of the day – a mix of photos from the Cariboo-Chilcotin and Claire’s paintings – and it was very well received 😉
Just before supper, everyone was invited to what was supposedly a special organizing meeting, but actually a ruse to present Les (Laszlo) Safranyik The George Varley Award for Achievement in Forest Insect Ecology. Les, a Soproni-UBC graduate, is recently retired from the Canadian Forest Service and features prominently in Andrew Nikiforuk’s “Empire of the Beetle” along with Allan Carroll, who gave the tribute. All the delegates were there and gave Les a standing ovation.