Geometrid moth outbreaks and their climatic relations in northern Sweden
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2014 Regents of the University of Colorado. The alpine treeline in northern Fennoscandia is composed primarily of mountain birch (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii), a deciduous tree that experiences episodic defoliation due to outbreaks of the autumnal moth (Epirrita autumnata) and winter moth (Operophiera brumala). Here, we use an extensive dendroecological data set to reconstruct historic defoliating outbreaks and relate them to climatic conditions. Our data are from 25 sites in eight valleys in northern Sweden. We used the computer program OUTBREAK to reconstruct moth outbreaks. The reconstructed outbreak record matches the historical record well. There is a significant, but weak relationship between the outbreak severity and temperatures in February, April, July, and August of the outbreak year. Temperatures in the previous May and November were also positively correlated with outbreak severity. For seasonally aggregated temperatures, only autumn temperatures are correlated with outbreak severity. There was no significant correlation between NAO index and outbreak severity. A spatiotemporal semivariogram analysis showed that sites within approximately 100 km of each other show similar patterns in outbreak severity. Our analyses suggest that moths are affected by climatic variations. The influence of climate on outbreaks is weak because background climatic conditions alone cannot induce an outbreak. Outbreaks also depend on nonclimatic factors, such as tree age, and the outbreak status of neighboring areas.