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|Fire is the most important factor encouraging pest
attack. Fire puts the tree under stress and weakens its
natural resistance against pests, if the tree survives.
Thus the injured and fire-damaged tree becomes
susceptible to pest attack. There is a number of insect
pests attacking fire-damaged trees. Interestingly, these
insects would not be able to cause any harm if the tree
was not affected by fire. Some of these pest insects are Xylothrips religiosus
and other powderpost beetles, Vanapa oberthuri, Illacuris laticollis, Aesiotes spp. and Sympiezoscelus spp. and
other Curculionidae wood-borers,
pin- and shot-hole borers
(Scolytidae and Platypodidae), and termites.
An infestation with pin- and shot-hole borers takes place
already a few hours after the respective tree has been
damaged by fire. Other secondary pests take advantage of
the thus even more weakened tree and join the 'dinner
party'. Apart from of the above mentioned insects fungi
are commonly encountered secondary pests.
Due to the fact that fires are mainly man-made, awareness campaigns with the aim to change the attitude of the people who set fires are the only reasonable means of tackling this problem. The strict enforcement of the respective laws would be also desirable in order to deter people from arson. Otherwise little can be done in order to prevent fires. It is certainly helpful to propagate a ground cover of the legume Desmodium uncinatum preventing or at least slowing down the spread of fires in newly established plantations. Furthermore, it might be worthwhile to allow gardening in newly established plantations so that local people might learn to appreciate the value of forestry and thus possibly become more cautious with fire. Apart from that, fire resistant Pinus sp. can be planted in notorious areas, even though these species might not survive fires.
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© Michael F. Schneider, 1999