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Synergistic interactions between leaf beetle herbivory and fire enhance tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) mortality

September 10, 2014

The combined effects of herbivory and fire on plant mortality were investigated using prescribed burns of tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima Lebed) exposed to herbivory by the saltcedar leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae: Diorhabda carinulata Desbrocher). Tamarix stands in the Humboldt Sink (NV, USA) were divided into three treatments: summer burn (August 2006), fall burn (October 2006) and control (unburned), and litter depth was manipulated to vary fire intensity within burn seasons. A gradient of existing herbivory impact was described with three plant condition metrics prior to fire: reduced proportions of green canopy, percent root crown starch sampled at the height of the growing season (August 2006), and percent root crown starch measured during dormancy (December 2006). August root crown starch concentration and proportion green canopy were strongly correlated, although the proportion green canopy predicted mortality better than August root crown starch. December root crown starch concentration was more depleted in unburned trees and in trees burned during the summer than in fall burn trees. Mortality in summer burned trees was higher than fall burned trees due to higher fire intensity, but December root crown starch available for resprouting in the spring was also lower in summer burned trees. The greatest mortality was observed in trees with the lowest December root crown starch concentration which were exposed to high fire intensity. Disproportionate changes in the slope and curvature of prediction traces as fire intensity and December starch reach reciprocal maximum and minimum levels indicate that beetle herbivory and fire intensity are synergistic.

Publication Year 2014
Title Synergistic interactions between leaf beetle herbivory and fire enhance tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) mortality
DOI 10.1016/j.biocontrol.2014.04.010
Authors Gail M. Drus, Tom L. Dudley, Carla M. Antonio, Thomas J. Even, Matt L. Brooks, J.R. Matchett
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Control
Index ID 70123855
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center