Heuss, M., A. W. D’Amato, K. J. Dodds. Manuscript in preparation at the time this blog post was published. Evaluating the impacts of southern pine beetle on pitch pine forest dynamics in a newly invaded region.
Abstract: Southern pine beetle (SPB), a native insect that has historically affected pine ecosystems in the southeastern U.S., has recently expanded northward causing extensive tree mortality in pitch pine and pitch pine-oak forests across much of eastern Long Island, NY. Given the historic lack of SPB within these ecosystems, little is known regarding its potential impacts on forest ecosystem structure and function. This study examined the immediate effects of SPB-induced tree mortality on the structure and composition of pitch pine and pitch pine-oak communities to inform management recommendations and projections of future forest conditions. Results regarding patterns of regeneration abundance and composition following SPB mortality and the impacts of deer browse activity on understory responses to SPB will be presented. In addition, impacts of management activities for controlling SPB on levels of downed fuels and forest regeneration will also be discussed. Collectively, our results indicate SPB could functionally eliminate pitch pine from many of these areas leading to increasing dominance of hardwoods species.