Impact of climate change on larch budmoth cyclic outbreaks

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Scientific Reports , Volume 6, Issue 27845 (2016)



<p>Periodic outbreaks of the larch budmoth Zeiraphera diniana population (and the massive forest defoliation they engender) have been recorded in the Alps over the centuries and are known for their remarkable regularity. But these have been conspicuously absent since 1981. On the other hand, budmoth outbreaks have been historically unknown in the larches of the Carpathian Tatra mountains. To resolve this puzzle, we propose here a model which includes the influence of climate and explains both the 8–9 year periodicity in the budmoth cycle and the variations from this, as well as the absence of cycles. We successfully capture the observed trend of relative frequencies of outbreaks, reproducing the dominant periodicities seen. We contend that the apparent collapse of the cycle in 1981 is due to changing climatic conditions following a tipping point and propose the recurrence of the cycle with a changed periodicity of 40 years – the next outbreak could occur in 2021. Our model also predicts longer cycles.</p>