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Fire benefits flower beetles

For two years we sampled invertebrates after two large wildfires in eastern Spain and demonstrate that two flower beetle species, Protaetia morio and P. oblonga (Cetoniidae; Fig. 1 & 2 below), show a pyrophilous behaviour [1]. These beetles were much more numerous after the fires than in unburnt plots around the fire perimeter; in addition, these species tended to increase in number with the distance from the fire perimeter and with fire recurrence (Fig. 3 below). These results suggest that local populations survived the fire as eggs or larvae protected in the soil, and then they were favoured postfire (i.e., population size increased, compared with unburnt zones). We propose that this could be driven by the reduction of their predator populations, as vertebrates that feed on these beetles are disfavored by fire. That is, the results suggest that these flower beetle species benefit from fire because fire disrupts antagonistic interactions with their predators (predation release hypothesis).


Fig. 1. Protaetia morio: eggs, larva, pupal, and adult (photos: S. Montagud); pitfall trap full of Protaetia beetles (bottom left).


Fig. 2: Protaetia morio (male and famale) and Protaetia oblonga (male and female)

 

Fig. 3: Abundance (number of individuals) of Protaetia morio one and two years after fire (from two fires that occurred in 2012). Green: Unburnt; Yellow: Burnt edge (< 700 m from the fire perimeter); Orange: Burnt center (> 1.3 km from the fire perimeter). P. oblonga showed a similar pattern. For details, see [1].

Reference 
[1] Pausas, J.G., Belliure, J., Mínguez, E. & Montagud, S. (2018) Fire benefits flower beetles in a mediterranean ecosystem. PLoS ONE, 13: e0198951. [doi | plos | pdf]

 

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