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Pattern analysis of eastern spruce budworm Choristoneura fumiferana dispersal


  • Dean P. Anderson,

  • Brian R. Sturtevant

D. P. Anderson, Landcare Research, PO Box 40, Lincoln, New Zealand. – B. R. Sturtevant, Inst. for Applied Ecosystems Studies, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station, 5985 Hwy K, Rhinelander, WI 54501, USA.


Dispersal has been proposed as an important mechanism in the broad-scale synchronisation of insect outbreaks by linking spatially disjunct populations. Evidence suggests that dispersal is influenced by landscape structure, phenology, temperature, and air currents; however, the details remain unclear due to the difficulty of quantifying dispersal. In this study, we used data on the abundance and distribution of spruce budworm Choristoneura fumiferana larvae (potential dispersers) and adult male moths (dispersers) to make inference on the effects of air currents and host-species abundance on dispersal. Hierarchical-Bayesian and inverse modeling was used to explore 4 dispersal models: 1) isotropic dispersal; 2) directional-dispersal; 3) directional-and-host-species dispersal; and 4) host-species dispersal. Despite their strong dependence on balsam fir Abies balsamea and spruce species Picea spp., the mapped basal area of these host species did not influence the pattern of dispersed moths. The model that best fit the data was the directional-dispersal model, which showed that the prevailing dispersal direction was from the northwest (328°). We infer that the strong pattern of directional dispersal was due to a prevailing wind from the same direction. Our interpretation was corroborated by independent wind data during the period of active adult male budworm flight, particularly in the region with high larval abundance. Our results indicate that there was a relatively high probability of individuals flying at least 48 km with the wind where larvae abundance at source locations was also high. Such findings emphasize the importance of long-distance dispersal on spatial distribution of adult male spruce budworms. Insight into the population-level consequences of such dispersal patterns requires additional research.

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