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Spatial synchrony of the two-year cycle budworm outbreaks in central British Columbia, Canada


  • Qi-Bin Zhang,

  • René I. Alfaro

Q.-B. Zhang, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 260 Dong-Gang West Rd., Lanzhou, Gansu, 730000, P.R. China ( – R. I. Alfaro, Pacific Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service, 506 West Burnside Rd., Victoria, BC, V8Z 1M5, Canada.


Outbreaks of forest defoliating insects are usually synchronized over a large spatial scale. Observed records of past outbreaks are usually short and incomplete, therefore long proxy data are useful for better understanding of the spatial synchrony. In this study, we developed tree-ring proxy records of two-year cycle spruce budworm (Choristoneura biennis Freeman) outbreaks in central British Columbia, Canada, and examined the spatial patterns of past outbreaks. This budworm is a major defoliating insect of the interior spruce (Picea engelmannii Parry×P. glauca Moench) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa [Hook.] Nutt.) forests in the Prince George Region of British Columbia. Four outbreaks occurred in relatively close synchrony over the entire region in the period 1880–1999, however, the initiation year, the intensity and extent of outbreaks varied spatially and from one outbreak to another. In some instances, the occurrence of outbreaks was restricted to only one area. The general synchrony of outbreaks suggested that a large-scale extrinsic factor, such as weather, was at play. However, the imperfect synchrony of outbreaks suggested that local stand characteristics, such as canopy structure, composition of tree species and host plant quality, probably played a major role in preconditioning outbreaks. Dispersal might play a role in synchronizing outbreaks, but the extent to which it contributed to the synchrony was limited in this mountainous region.