Data from: Forest fire severity affects host plant quality and insect herbivore damage
Murphy, Shanon M. et al. (2019), Data from: Forest fire severity affects host plant quality and insect herbivore damage, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.t36p0cd
Climate change models predict increased forest fire occurrence and severity in the near future. Forest fire disturbance affects multiple ecological interactions, but there is little evidence for how naturally-occurring fires affect plant quality and herbivore damage, which is important because plants and herbivorous insects comprisemost of the diversity in natural ecosystems and are responsible for a variety of ecosystem services. We surveyed three fires in the Rocky Mountains to investigate the effects of fire severity on wax currant (Ribes cereum), an important source of food and cover for wildlife in Colorado. We measured plant quality and herbivore damage; we found that fire severity had a significant negative effect on both measures. Notably, high severity fires decreased herbivore damage by about 50%. Furthermore, we found that the effect of fire on insect herbivore damage is mostly direct, but that indirect effects mediated through changes in plant quality are also significant. Our results have important implications for the effects of climate-driven increases in fire severity on plant-insect interactions, illustrating strong direct and weaker indirect negative effects of fire severity in a forest ecosystem.