The difficulty of predicting eastern spruce dwarf mistletoe in lowland black spruce: model benchmarking in northern minnesota, usa

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Insects, fungi, and diseases play an important role in forest stand development and subsequently, forest management decisions and treatments. As these disturbance agents commonly occur within and across landscapes, modeling has often been used to inform forest planning and management decisions. However, models are rarely benchmarked, leaving questions about their utility. Here, we assessed the predictive performance of a Bayesian hierarchical model through on– the-ground sampling to explore what features of stand structure or composition may be important factors related to eastern spruce dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium pusillum Peck) presence in lowland black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) B. S. P.). Twenty-five state-owned stands included in the predictive model were sampled during the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons. Within each stand, data related to the presence of eastern spruce dwarf mistletoe, stand structure, and species composition were collected. The model accurately predicted eastern spruce dwarf mistletoe occurrence for 13 of the 25 stands. The amount of living and dead black spruce basal area differed significantly based on model prediction and observed infestation, but trees per hectare, total living basal area, diameter at breast height, stand age, and species richness were not significantly different. Our results highlight the benefits of model benchmarking to improve model interpretation as well as to inform our understanding of forest health problems across diverse stand conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number843
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) through MITPPC Sub-project #4: Dwarf Mistletoe Detection and Management in Minnesota. This research received additional support from the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station (projects MIN-42-101 and MIN-42-068).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Arceuthobium
  • Black spruce
  • Boreal forest
  • Eastern spruce dwarf mistletoe
  • Forest health
  • Lowland conifers
  • Modeling


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