Using game theory to evaluate host acceptance decisions in mountain pine beetle


Mountain Pine Beetle, a native species of North American forests, searches out and colonizes live trees such as lodgepole pine. Female beetles have a limited period of time to find a suitable tree to breed and lay her eggs in. However, to successfully reproduce the beetle must overcome host defences and kill the host tree. How beetles distribute themselves on particular host trees will be largely affected by the density of other beetles, since individual beetles on their own are incapable of successfully colonizing and killing a host tree. I use a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches to explore how Mountain Pine Beetle searches for and selects host trees in which to reproduce. I develop a dynamic state variable model to first evaluate individual host acceptance decisions. However, individual decisions may be contingent on the decisions of conspecifics, therefore, the decision-making policies of the beetles as a population should be treated as a game. Thus, I use a game theory approach to evaluate the policies of beetles leading to stable decision policies. A combination of field and experimental work will be used to test various components of the model before it is scaled up into a spatially-explicit forest landscape model.

27th Annual Pacific Ecology and Evolution Conference
Bamfield, BC