Fire often positively affects the growth and nutrient content of plants regrowing after a burn. These changes have been associated with preferential feeding by herbivores in burned areas. In this study in southeastern Wyoming, Chrysothamnus nauseosus Pursh (rubber rabbitbrush) regrowing after a fire produced new shoots with a distinct growth form. Shoots were longer than those on unburned control sites and had longer leaves with longer internodes between leaves. We conducted feeding trials to detect whether C. nauseosus shoots regrowing after fire were nutritionally superior to shoots from unburned plants for the specialist leaf beetle, Trirhabda lewisii Crotch (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). We also measured C:N ratios and nitrogen and water contents of leaves from burned and unburned plants. Trirhabda lewisii adults preferred shoots from burned plants when given a choice. The beetles ate similar amounts of burned and unburned plants when fed only a single type. Females that were fed either burned or unburned plants did not differ in number of eggs laid. Chemical analyses revealed no significant differences in nitrogen or water content of leaves from burned versus unburned plants. Carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of burned plants was marginally lower compared with unburned plants. In contrast to previous studies, which suggest that herbivore attraction to burned areas leads to enhanced performance, our study shows that performance is not necessarily enhanced after fire.
Herzig, Ann L. and Skema, Cynthia
"Feeding behavior and performance of a rabbitbrush leaf-beetle (Trirhabda lewisii) feeding on Chrysothamnus nauseosus regrowth after fire,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 64
, Article 11.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol64/iss2/11