Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Beetle Dung Helps Forests Recover From Fire

Date:
December 11, 2007
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
Beetle droppings -- known in the scientific world as frass -- are crucial to forests recovering from fire.Armed with a pair of tweezers and a handful of beetle droppings,researchers have discovered why bug-sized dung is so important to areas ravaged by fire.

This deadwood beetle is shown with two components of its dung -- fecal pellets and chewed wood shavings, which combine to create a valuable soil nutrient.
Credit: Tyler Cobb

Armed with a pair of tweezers and a handful of beetle droppings, University of Alberta forestry graduate Tyler Cobb has discovered why the bug-sized dung is so important to areas ravaged by fire.

Cobb studied the burned-out area of a northern Alberta hamlet which was partially lost to wildfire during the blazing summer of 2001. By studying a certain species of fire-loving beetles hard at work in the burned and decaying trees, he was able to determine that the insects' droppings play a vital role in replenishing soil nutrients that help plants regenerate after a fire.

Cobb, while earning his PhD in the University of Alberta Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics, in the Department of Renewable Resources, worked with about 10 grams of beetle dung--50 to 60 beetles can produce just a handful--over two years, slowly teasing it apart with tweezers and chemically analyzing the contents and using it for experiments to pinpoint the benefits to soil.

Beetle droppings--known in the scientific world as frass--are crucial to forests recovering from fire. The tiny piles of droppings, found at the bases of trees, resemble cones of sawdust, and they help nourish the forest floor by increasing microbial activity in the soil. This process can also determine which kinds of trees grow back.

"This means that rather than being considered a pest or a nuisance, these beetles are in fact very important to helping burned forests recover," Cobb said. He is concerned, though, because salvage logging is taking the beetles out of the forest before they can do their job; the insects lay their eggs in the dead trees, and the larvae are subsequently destroyed when the wood is processed at sawmills. "That population is being removed from the salvage site and that takes away the mechanism by which the nutrients are returned to the soil."

Salvage logging should be delayed after a fire to allow the beetles to complete their life cycle, Cobb said. "In theory, if you delayed logging for two years, these beetle populations could survive." Another option, he added, is to leave some burned timber--perhaps 10 to 25 per cent--as-is.

Though he intensively studied the frass of only one beetle species, Cobb says that dead wood-associated beetles are found throughout the world, and that without their valuable back-end contributions, forests damaged by fire and other disturbances will be worse off. "Forest management activities that threaten these species could have widespread ecological impacts. Wherever you've got forest you've got a beetle community essentially dedicated to this decomposition process, which is critical to the overall health of the forest."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "Beetle Dung Helps Forests Recover From Fire." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071203135742.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2007, December 11). Beetle Dung Helps Forests Recover From Fire. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071203135742.htm
University of Alberta. "Beetle Dung Helps Forests Recover From Fire." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071203135742.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers

California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — California's record drought is hurting honey supplies and raising prices for consumers. The lack of rainfall means fewer crops and wildflowers that provide the nectar bees need to make honey. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Species Found In Lake Under Antarctic Ice

Thousands Of Species Found In Lake Under Antarctic Ice

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — A U.S. team found nearly 4,000 species in a subglacial lake that hasn't seen sunlight in millennia, showing life can thrive even under the ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins