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The effect of leaf beetle herbivory on the fire behaviour of tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima Lebed.)

November 9, 2012

The non-native tree, Tamarix spp. has invaded desert riparian ecosystems in the south-western United States. Fire hazard has increased, as typically fire-resistant native vegetation is replaced by Tamarix. The tamarisk leaf beetle, Diorhabda carinulata Desbrochers, introduced for biological control, may affect fire behaviour by converting hydrated live Tamarix leaves and twigs into desiccated and dead fuels. This potentially increases fire hazard in the short term before native vegetation can be re-established. This study investigates how fire behaviour is altered in Tamarix fuels desiccated by Diorhabda herbivory at a Great Basin site, and by herbivory simulated by foliar herbicide at a Mojave Desert site. It also evaluates the influence of litter depth on fire intensity. Fire behaviour was measured with a fire intensity index that integrates temperature and duration (degree-minutes above 70°C), and with maximum temperature, duration, flame lengths, rates of spread and vegetation removal. Maximum temperature, flame length and rate of spread were enhanced by foliar desiccation of Tamarix at both sites. At only the Mojave site, there was a trend for desiccated trees to burn with greater fire intensity. At both sites, fire behaviour parameters were influenced to a greater degree by litter depth, vegetation density and drier and windier conditions than by foliar desiccation.

Publication Year 2012
Title The effect of leaf beetle herbivory on the fire behaviour of tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima Lebed.)
DOI 10.1071/WF10089
Authors Gail M. Drus, Tom L. Dudley, Matthew L. Brooks, John R. Matchett
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title International Journal of Wildland Fire
Index ID 70179393
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center