Sudden fir mortality in New Brunswick, Canada: history and dendrochronological analysis

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University of New Brunswick


Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) is a historically, ecologically, and economically significant species in New Brunswick. In 2018, sudden foliar drying and discoloration occurred in many balsam fir trees province-wide. The trees turned red and died in one growing season, referred to as Sudden Fir Mortality (SFM). Previous research suggests possible causes include drought, fungi, insects, and climatic drivers. However, the epidemiology of SFM and implications for management strategies were not fully explored, nor have possible tree-level predisposing factors been investigated. Dendrochronology was used to evaluate tree growth response associated with SFM across three regions in western New Brunswick. Results indicate that SFM-killed trees were less vigorous, started growing slower 12-24 years prior to mortality, and died one year earlier in the colder, drier northern region. These results can be used to help guide forest management strategies aimed at detecting and minimizing SFM-associated losses.