Interactions of Emerging Threats and Bark Beetle-Microbial Dynamics in Forest Ecosystems (from W1187)
A changing set of factors is influencing Idaho's forests at a scale that some argue is unprecedented in the modern era. Much of the Western United States has experienced drought for the past 10 years. Changing climate has increased mean summer and winter temperatures above those in recorded history. Invasive exotic species have altered the species composition of landscapes. These are just a few of the factors altering forest susceptibility to insects and pathogens. These effects can cascade through a system. For example, insects and pathogens alter fire regimes, and with increased temperature and drought, they facilitate an increase in the number, size and severity of forest fires. Changes in land use patterns are contributing to intensification of interactions at the forest - human interface, which imposes societal goals on natural ecosystems.
Among the demands citizens expect from forested ecosystems are resistance to fire, carbon sequestration, clean water and aesthetic quality. Even natural forest succession is perceived by some to be undesirable. Society increasingly demands ecosystem services at a time when these ecosystems are changing rapidly. For example, hardwoods and less-economically important conifers which were often ignored are now becoming important to land managers and the public. In the Intermountain West, land managers have become aware that species such as aspen and subalpine fir are critical ecosystem components and may be declining. There has been little research to guide us in restoration efforts.