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Lars Eklundh


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Features predisposing forest to bark beetle outbreaks and their dynamics during drought


  • Mitro Müller
  • Per-Ola Olsson
  • Lars Eklundh
  • Sadegh Jamali
  • Jonas Ardö

Summary, in English

Climate change is estimated to increase the risk of the bark beetle (Ips typographus L.) mass outbreaks in Norway Spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst) forests. Habitats that are thermally suitable for bark beetles may expand, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts can promote drought stress on host trees. Drought affects tree vigor and in unison with environmental features it influences the local predisposition risk of forest stands to bark beetle attacks. We aimed to study how various environmental features influence the risk of bark beetle attacks during a drought year and the following years with more normal weather conditions but with higher bark beetle populations. We included features representing local forest stand attributes, topography, soil type and wetness, the proximity of clear-cuts and previous bark beetle attacks, and a machine learning algorithm (random forest) was applied to study the variation of predisposition risk across a 48,600 km2 study area in SE Sweden.

Forest stands with increased risk of bark beetle attack were distinguished with high accuracy both during drought and in normal weather conditions. The results show that during both study periods, spruce and mixed coniferous forests had elevated risk of attack, while forests with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees had a lower risk. Forests with high average canopy height were strongly predisposed to bark beetle attacks. However, during the drought year risk was more similar between stands with lower and higher canopy height, suggesting that during drought periods younger trees can be predisposed to bark beetle attacks. The importance of soil moisture and position within the local landscape were highlighted as important features during the drought year.

Identifying areas with increased risk, supported by information on how environmental features control the predisposition risk during drought, could aid adaptation strategies and forest management intervention efforts. We conclude that geospatial data and machine learning have the potential to further support the digitalization of the forest industry, facilitating development of methods capable to quantify importance and dynamics of environmental features controlling the risk in local context. Corresponding methods could help to direct management actions more effectively and offer information for decision-making in changing climate.


  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate
  • MERGE: ModElling the Regional and Global Earth system
  • Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
  • Transport and Roads
  • eSSENCE: The e-Science Collaboration

Publishing year





Forest Ecology and Management



Document type

Journal article




  • Forest Science




  • ISSN: 1872-7042