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Lepidoptera wing scales: a new paleoecological indicator for reconstructing spruce budworm abundance

Navarro, Lionel, Harvey, Anne-√Člizabeth, Morin, Hubert
Canadian journal of forest research 2018 v.48 no.3 pp. 302-308
Choristoneura fumiferana, boreal forests, feces, fire history, head, insects, landscapes, paleoecology, sediments, species identification, statistical models, Quebec
Natural disturbances have a major impact on boreal forest landscape dynamics, and although fire history is well documented at the Holocene scale, spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana (Clemens)) (SBW) dynamics have only been known for the last three centuries. This is likely due to the difficulty in using and interpreting existing indicators (cephalic head capsules and feces). In this methodological study, we present an original approach using lepidopteran wing scales to reconstruct insect abundance. We analyzed two sediment cores from the boreal forest in central Quebec and extracted wing scales at every stratigraphic level. The required quantity of sediment for paleoecological analysis is relatively small given the large quantity of wing scales produced by Lepidoptera and their small size. Scales are well preserved due to their chitinous structure and their great variety of shapes offer a high potential for taxonomic identification. A statistical model based on the shape of scales of the three major epidemic lepidopterans in Quebec discriminated 68% of SBW scales. This indicator allows a more efficient and more precise reconstruction of SBW history with respect to the use of cephalic head capsules or feces.