Current knowledge concerning the interactions between forest disturbances such as fire and insect defoliation is limited. Wildfires and prescribed burns may influence the intensity and severity of insect outbreaks by affecting the vigor of residual trees, altering aspects of stand structure and abundance of preferred hosts, and by changing the physical environment within forest stands. Prescribed burn timing and frequency are particularly important aspects of the fire regime to consider because they can alter numerous aspects of tree vigor, stand structure, and environmental conditions, and can be manipulated by managers. We evaluated ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex P. Lawson & C. Lawson) defoliation patterns in relation to season (fall and spring) and interval (5 or 15 years) of prescribed burn in the southern Blue Mountains of Oregon. Beginning in 2008 a pine butterfly (Neophasia menapia C. Felder & R. Felder) (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) outbreak coincided with a long-term experimental study, providing a unique opportunity to address this question. Defoliation patterns were measured in 2012. The 5 year interval plots had burned three times with five growing seasons of recovery and the 15 year interval plots had burned once with 15 growing seasons of recovery. Mean pine butterfly defoliation across the study area was about 71%. We found a significant interaction between season of burn and interval of burn on defoliation. Areas burned in the fall every 5 years had marginally less (about 5%) defoliation compared with areas that were burned in the fall 15 years previous. Regression tree analysis revealed that defoliation patterns varied based on stand location, percent mortality since the start of the experiment, and tree height. Our results show that (i) season of burn and interval of burn did not predispose these stands to increased defoliation during a pine butterfly outbreak and (ii) repeat burning may actually lead to lower defoliation. However, the effect we document is small and only marginally significant.
Kerns, Becky K.; Westlind, Douglas J. 2013. Effect of season and interval of prescribed burn on ponderosa pine butterfly defoliation patterns. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 43: 979-983.