Effects of prescribed fire on canopy foliar chemistry and suitability for an insect herbivore

L. K. Rieske, H. H. Housman, M. A. Arthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


We assessed the effects of a prescribed fire on the phytochemical characteristics and vigor of overstory chestnut oak, scarlet oak, and red maple, and measured the impact of potential changes on herbivore fitness. We compared foliar carbohydrates, tannins, nutrients, and fiber concentrations in foliage from burned and non-burned forest canopies. There were significant differences in most foliar characteristics between tree species. Total non-structural carbohydrate concentrations in scarlet oak and red maple foliage, and calcium levels in red maple foliage, were significantly lower in burned plots, but other phytochemical characteristics were largely unaffected by burning. Tree growth also varied with species. Burning increased chestnut oak relative growth, decreased scarlet oak growth, and had no affect on red maple growth. Scarlet oak and red maple foliage from burned and non-burned forest canopies were assayed for gypsy moth performance. Caterpillars fed foliage from scarlet oak, the preferred host, grew larger and developed more rapidly than did those fed red maple foliage. There were no significant burn treatment differences in caterpillar development within either tree species, suggesting that managers using prescribed fire to promote oak regeneration need not worry about enhancing forest stand susceptibility to gypsy moth. However, the fire in this study was of low to moderate intensity; more intense fires may alter foliar palatability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-187
Number of pages11
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - May 1 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Greg Abernathy, Aaron Adams, Beth Blankenship, Emily Bremer, Rebecca Brown, Lyle Buss, Peter Hadjiev, James Hamilton, Millie Hamilton, Suzanne Murray, Ted Sizemore, and Michelle Smith for assistance. The comments of Ken Yeargan and two anonymous reviewers greatly strengthened this manuscript. This work was partially funded by a Challenge Cost-Share Agreement with the Daniel Boone National Forest, Winchester, KY, and was made possible through collaboration with personnel from the Stanton Ranger District. Financial support was also provided through the Kentucky State Agricultural Experiment Station (No. 00-08-153).


  • Defoliation
  • Gypsy moth
  • Oak
  • Phytochemistry
  • Quercus
  • Red maple

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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