Association of wildfire with tree health and numbers of pine bark beetles, reproduction weevils and their associates in Florida
Wildfires burned over 200,000 ha of forests in Florida from April to July 1998. This unique disturbance event provided a valuable opportunity to study the interactions of summer wildfires with the activity of pine feeding insects and their associates in the southeastern United States. We compared tree mortality with abundance of bark and ambrosia beetles, reproduction weevils and wood borers relative to fire severity. Over 27% of residual live trees in stands that experienced high fire severity died between October 1998 and May 1999. Additional 2-3% of trees that initially survived the fire died during the second year compared to <1% mortality in unburned stands. One year after the fire, more than 75% of the trees surviving in high fire severity stands had roots infected with one or more species of Leptographium and/or Graphium spp. and nearly 60% of the sampled roots were infected. No such fungi were recovered from roots of trees in unburned stands. Significantly, more root weevils, Hylobius pales and Pachylobius picovorus, were captured in unbaited pitfalls in the moderate and high fire severity stands than in the controls. Mean trap catches of Ips grandicollis, Dendroctonus terebrans, and Hylaster salebrosus, three common bark beetles that feed on phloem tissue of pines, were lower in Lindgren traps in the fire-damaged areas than in the control stands. In contrast, catches of hte ambrosia beetles, Xyleborus spp. and Monarthrum mali, were higher in burned stands than in control stands. The generalist predator, Temnochila virescens (Coleoptera: Trogositidae), showed a strong positive relationship between abundance and fire severity, while the flat bark beetle, Silvanus sp. (Coleopter: Sylvanidae), exhibited the reverse trend. Our results show the most tree mortality occurred within 1 year of the fire. Ips or Dendroctonus bark beetle populations did not build up in dead and weakened trees and attack healthy trees in nearby areas. The prevalence of Leptographium spp. in roots may be a symptom of, or result in, weakened trees that may affect the trees' susceptibility to bark beetles in the future.
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