The role of temperature variability in stabilizing the mountain pine beetle-fungus mutualism

A. L. Addison, J. A. Powell, D. L. Six, M. Moore, B. J. Bentz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


As global climate patterns continue to change and extreme weather events become increasingly common, it is likely that many ecological interactions will be affected. One such interaction is the multipartite symbiosis that exists between the mountain pine beetle and two species of fungi, Grosmannia clavigera and Ophiostoma montium. In this mutualism, the fungi provide nutrition to the beetle, while the fungi benefit by being dispersed to new host trees. Multi-partite mutualisms are predicted to be unstable due to strong direct competition among symbionts or natural selection for superior over inferior mutualists. However, this mutualism has remained stable over long periods of evolutionary time. In this paper, we developed a temperature-based model for the spread of fungi within a tree and connected it to an existing model for mountain pine beetle development. Using this integrated model for fungal growth, we explored the possibility that temperature variability is a stabilizing mechanism for the mountain pine beetle-fungi mutualism. Of the three types of temperature variability we tested: intra-year, inter-year and variability due to transitioning between different thermal habitats (thermal migration), we found that thermal migration was the most robust stabilizing mechanism. Additionally, we found that the MPB attack density or spacing between fungal lesions also had a significant effect on the stability of the system. High attack densities or close lesion spacings also tended to stabilize the system, regardless of temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-50
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - 2013


  • Dendroctonus
  • Fungal associates
  • Mutualism stability
  • Overlapping phenology
  • Phenology modeling


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