Effects of prescribed fire and other plant community restoration treatments on tree mortality, bark beetles, and other saproxylic coleoptera of longleaf pine, Pinus palustris Mill., on the coastal plain of Alabama
Treatments to restore understory plant communities of mature (50-80-year old) longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) and reduce risks of wildfire were applied to 10 ha plots that had a substantial shrub layer due to lack of fire. Plots were located in the Coastal Plain of Alabama and treatments consisted of: (1) untreated control, (2) growing season prescribed bum, (3) thin only. (4) thin plus growing season bum, and (5) herbicide plus growing season bum. Thin plus bum plots had significantly higher tree mortality compared to bum only and control plots and, overall, fire was the primary cause of tree death. Most tree mortality occurred within 1-year of treatment. From 2002 to 2004, we captured 75,598 Coleoptera in multiple funnel traps comprising 17 families and 130 species. Abundance of all Coleoptera combined was not different among treatments. Species richness was significantly higher on thin plus bum plots compared to thin only and control plots. Scolytinae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) were more abundant on thin plus burn plots compared to control plots in fall 2002 but in fall 2003 they were more abundant on thin plus bum, thin only, and herbicide plus bum compared to controls. Among Scolytinae, Dendmctonus terebrans (Olivier), Xyleborinus saxeseni (Ratzeburg), Xyleborus sp. 3, and Hylastes tenuis (Eichhoff), showed varying responses to the treatments. Other Curculionidae were significantly more abundant on thin only and herbicide plus bum plots compared to all other treatments in spring 2003 and in spring 2004 they were more abundant on herbicide plus bum plots compared to thin plus bum treatments. Among Cerambycidae, Xylotrechus sagittatus (Germar) was higher in abundance in fall 2003 on thin plus bum plots compared to all other treatments except herbicide plus burn plots. Within the predator complex, Trogositidae were higher on thin plus bum plots compared to all other treatments except thin only plots in spring 2003, and Cleridae abundance was higher in spring 2004 on bum only plots compared to all other treatments. Linear regression analyses of dead trees per plot versus various Colwptera showed captures of Buprestidae, Cerambycidae, Trogositidae, Acanthocinus nodosus (Fabricius), Ternnochila virescens (Fabricius), and X. saxeseni increased with increasing number of dead trees. Our results show that the restoration treatments tested did not cause increased bark beetle-related tree mortality and they did not negatively affect populations of early successional saproxylic beetle fauna.
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