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Interactions among fire, insects and pathogens in coniferous forests of the interior western United States and Canada

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1 Natural and recurring disturbances caused by fire, native forest insects and pathogens have interacted for millennia to create and maintain forests dominated by seral or pioneering species of conifers in the interior regions of the western United States and Canada.

2 Changes in fire suppression and other factors in the last century have altered the species composition and increased the density of trees in many western forests, leading to concomitant changes in how these three disturbance agents interact.

3 Two- and three-way interactions are reviewed that involve fire, insects and pathogens in these forests, including fire-induced pathogen infection and insect attack, the effects of tree mortality from insects and diseases on fuel accumulation, and efforts to model these interactions.

4 The emerging concern is highlighted regarding how the amount and distribution of bark beetle-caused tree mortality will be affected by large-scale restoration of these fire-adapted forest ecosystems via prescribed fire.

5 The effects of fire on soil insects and pathogens, and on biodiversity of ground-dwelling arthropods, are examined.

6 The effects of fire suppression on forest susceptibility to insects and pathogens, are discussed, as is the use of prescribed fire to control forest pests.
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Keywords: Bark beetles; conifers; dwarf mistletoes; fire suppression; fuel accumulation; fungal pathogens; insect biodiversity; prescribed fire; soil organisms; wood borers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Forestry, Box 15018, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011-5018, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2006-08-01

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