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Climate change is already reducing carbon sequestration in Central European forests dramatically through extensive droughts and bark beetle outbreaks. Further warming may threaten the enormous carbon reservoirs in the boreal forests in northern Europe unless disturbance risks can be reduced by adaptive forest management. The European spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) is a major natural disturbance agent in spruce-dominated forests and can overwhelm the defences of healthy trees through pheromone-coordinated mass-attacks. We used an extensive dataset of bark beetle trap counts to quantify how climatic and management-related factors influence bark beetle population sizes in boreal forests. Trap data were collected during a period without outbreaks and can thus identify mechanisms that drive populations towards outbreak thresholds. The most significant predictors of bark beetle population size were the volume of mature spruce, the extent of newly exposed clearcut edges, temperature and soil moisture. For clearcut edge, temperature and soil moisture, a 3-year time lag produced the best model fit. We demonstrate how a model incorporating the most significant predictors, with a time lag, can be a useful management tool by allowing spatial prediction of future beetle population sizes. Synthesis and Applications: Some of the population drivers identified here, i,e., spruce volume and clearcut edges, can be targeted by adaptive management measures to reduce the risk of future bark beetle outbreaks. Implementing such measures may help preserve future carbon sequestration of European boreal forests.