Consequences of distributional asymmetry in a warming environment: Invasion of novel forests by the mountain pine beetle

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  • The range of many Holarctic forest insects does not comprise the entire range of their hosts, as they are often limited to more southern latitudes by the adverse effects of cold temperatures. Global climate warming has led to the increased potential for forest insects to invade novel habitats of native hosts within the same landmass. The mountain pine beetle (MPB; Dendroctonus ponderosae) has recently expanded into higher‐latitude forests of the principal host, lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia), and the susceptibility of trees is greater in these systems compared to forests in the native range. We assessed the contribution of the induced defensive response of hosts to this elevated susceptibility, and whether these discrepancies are the result of coevolution with host populations within the historic native range of the insect. We challenged trees using paired treatments of a beetle‐attack simulation and a generic defensive response elicitor (methyl jasmonate) to mitigate variability in the induced response among trees within and among populations, from within and outside the historic range of the beetle. We then assessed the production of monoterpene chemicals by the trees in response to treatments using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The differential induction of monoterpenes in response to simulated beetle attack relative to the generic elicitor was highest in populations with the highest putative historic exposure to MPB. Elevated susceptibility and invasion potential of the beetle in novel systems is the proximate result of reduced defensive capacity, ultimately arising from a lack of coevolution with the beetle in novel systems. In forested systems with climate‐driven herbivore–host distributional asymmetry, continued warming will potentially exacerbate the impacts of aggressive insect herbivores as they invade defensively naïve host populations.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution 4.0 International
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    • Burke, J. L., Bohlmann, J., & Carroll, A. L. (2017). Consequences of distributional asymmetry in a warming environment: Invasion of novel forests by the mountain pine beetle. Ecosphere, 8(4), e01778.
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