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Wood-feeding beetles and soil nutrient cycling in burned forests: implications of post-fire salvage logging

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• Rising economic demands for boreal forest resources along with current and predicted increases in wildfire activity have increased salvage logging of burned forests. Currently, the ecological consequences of post-fire salvage logging are insufficiently understood to develop effective management guidelines or to adequately inform policy decision-makers.

• We used both field and laboratory studies to examine the effects of post-fire salvage logging on populations of the white-spotted sawyer Monochamus scutellatus scutellatus (Say) (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) and its ecological function in boreal forest.

Monochamus s. scutellatus adults were relatively abundant in both burned and clear-cut logged sites but were absent from salvage logged sites.

• An in situ mesocosm experiment showed that the abundance of M. s. scutellatus larvae in burned white spruce bolts was linked to changes in total organic nitrogen and carbon in mineral soil.

• Organic nutrient inputs in the form of M. s. scutellatus frass increased mineral soil microbial respiration rates by more than three-fold and altered the availability of nitrogen. Changes in nitrogen availability corresponded with decreased germination and growth of Epilobium angustifolium and Populus spp. but not Calamagrostis canadensis.

• Although the present study focused on local scale effects, the reported findings suggest that continued economic emphasis on post-fire salvage logging may have implications beyond the local scale for biodiversity conservation, nutrient cycling and plant community composition in forest ecosystems recovering from wildfire.
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Keywords: Beetle frass; IPDM; Monochamus s. scutellatus (Say); boreal forest; coarse woody debris; nitrogen cycling; saproxylic beetles; soil microbial activity; wildfire

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-02-01

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