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Ecology of understory and below-ground communities in lodgepole pine forests under changing disturbance regimes Open Access


Other title
mountain pine beetle
lodgepole pine
ecosystem drivers
disturbance regime
plant-soil interactions
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
McIntosh, Anne C. S.
Supervisor and department
Macdonald, S. Ellen (Renewable Resources)
Examining committee member and department
Silins, Uldis (Renewable Resources)
Quideau, Sylvie (Renewable Resources)
Erbilgin, Nadir (Renewable Resources)
Gilliam, Frank (Biological Sciences, Marshall University, West Virginia)
Department of Renewable Resources
Forest Biology and Management
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
As climate changes and disturbance regimes shift, there is a need to better understand and anticipate potential impacts of both natural and anthropogenic disturbance agents on forest ecosystems. Lodgepole pine forests in western Canada are experiencing an unprecedented mountain pine beetle (MPB) outbreak, and the ecosystem-level effects of ongoing expansion of MPB into novel habitats east of the Canadian Rockies are unknown. Another way ecosystems are being disturbed is through management practices that are attempting to enhance timber production by using introduced species in plantations; lodgepole pine has been introduced around the world as an important timber species, but its invasive potential in some areas, such as Sweden, remains unclear. To better understand the ecological impacts of disturbance in lodgepole pine ecosystems I investigated: i) fine-scale patterns in understory plant and microbial communities in mature lodgepole pine forests; ii) effects of simulated MPB attack and salvage harvest on above- and below-ground dynamics of these forests; iii) potential for pine regeneration after MPB attack in newly invaded stands; and iv) effects of the introduction of lodgepole pine to Sweden on forest floor properties and processes. In mature undisturbed lodgepole pine forests I identified four fine-scale plant communities, primarily influenced by below-ground factors; four structural microbial communities, primarily influenced by the understory composition; and four functional microbial communities that were not strongly associated with any environmental factors measured in my study. I found short-term resistance to ecosystem change after simulated MPB attack, compared with more immediate ecosystem changes in response to salvage harvest. Regeneration of lodgepole pine seedlings appears unlikely to occur in the short term after MPB attack without active silvicultural intervention. In northern Sweden, introduced lodgepole pine had minor ecosystem-level effects compared with the native pine; the impacts of species introductions are likely functions of both regional influences and ecological differences between the introduced and native species. Overall, my thesis provides novel insights into the ecology of lodgepole pine forests in the face of changing disturbance regimes and forest management practices, demonstrating the important ecological roles that both above- and below-ground properties and processes play in these forested ecosystems.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
McIntosh, A.C.S., Macdonald, S.E., and Gundale, M.J. 2012. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 42:1228-1238 doi:10.1139/X2012-049

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