Translocation experiment reveals capacity for mountain pine beetle persistence under climate warming

David N. Soderberg, Karen E. Mock, Richard W. Hofstetter, Barbara J. Bentz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Predicting species response to climate change is a central challenge in ecology, particularly for species that inhabit large geographic areas. The mountain pine beetle (MPB) is a significant tree mortality agent in western North America with a distribution limited by climate. Recent warming has caused large-scale MPB population outbreaks within its historical distribution, in addition to migration northward in western Canada. The relative roles of genetic and environmental sources of variation governing MPB capacity to persist in place in a changing climate, and the migratory potential at its southern range edge in the United States, have not been investigated. We reciprocally translocated MPB populations taken from the core and southern edge of their range, and simultaneously translocated both populations to a warmer, low-elevation site near the southern range boundary where MPB activity has historically been absent despite suitable hosts. We found genetic variability and extensive plasticity in multiple fitness traits that would allow both populations to persist in a warming climate that resembles the thermal regime of our low-elevation site. We demonstrate, for the first time, that supercooling points in MPBs are influenced both by genetic and environmental factors. Both populations reproduced with seasonally appropriate univoltine generation times at all translocated sites, and bivoltinism was not observed. The highest reproductive success occurred at the warmest, out-of-range low-elevation site, suggesting that southward migration may not be temperature limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01437
JournalEcological Monographs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • bivoltinism
  • climate change
  • cold-hardening
  • diapause
  • genetic variation
  • local adaptation
  • mountain pine beetle
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • reciprocal translocation
  • supercooling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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