Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Volume 7, Pages 231-239
Short Communication

Linking Increasing Drought Stress to Scots Pine Mortality and Bark Beetle Infestations

1Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
2Forest Ecology, Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, Department of Environmental Sciences, ETH Zurich, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland
3Euloz, CH-1926 Fully, Switzerland

Received 3 October 2006; Revised 24 January 2007; Accepted 24 January 2007

Academic Editor: Andrzej Bytnerowicz

Copyright © 2007 Matthias Dobbertin et al.


In the dry Swiss Rhone Valley, Scots pine forests have experienced increased mortality in recent years. It has commonly been assumed that drought events and bark beetles fostered the decline, however, whether bark beetle outbreaks increased in recent years and whether they can be linked to drought stress or increasing temperature has never been studied.

In our study, we correlated time series of drought indices from long-term climate stations, 11-year mortality trends from a long-term research plot, and mortality probabilities modeled from tree rings (as an indicator of tree vitality) with documented occurrences of various bark beetle species and a buprestid beetle, using regional Forest Service reports from 1902 to 2003 and advisory cases of the Swiss Forest Protection Service (SFPS) from 1984 to 2005. We compared the historical findings with measured beetle emergence from a 4-year tree felling and breeding chamber experiment.

The documented beetle-related pine mortality cases increased dramatically in the 1990s, both in the forest reports and the advisory cases. The incidents of beetle-related pine mortality correlated positively with spring and summer temperature, and with the tree-ring-based mortality index, but not with the drought index. The number of advisory cases, on the other hand, correlated slightly with summer drought index and temperature, but very highly with tree-ring–based mortality index. The tree-ring-based mortality index and observed tree mortality increased in years following drought. This was confirmed by the beetle emergences from felled trees. Following dry summers, more than twice as many trees were colonized by beetles than following wet summers.

We conclude that increased temperatures in the Swiss Rhone Valley have likely weakened Scots pines and favored phloeophagous beetle population growth. Beetles contributed to the increased pine mortality following summer drought. Among the factors not addressed in this study, changed forest use may have also contributed to increased beetle populations and Scots pine mortality, whereas air pollution seems to be of lesser importance.