Lightning is a common agent of disturbance in many forest ecosystems. Lightning-damaged trees are a potentially important resource for beetles, but most evidence for this association is limited to temperate pine forests. Here, we evaluated the relationship between lightning damage and beetle colonization of tropical trees. We recorded the number of beetle holes on the trunks of trees from 10 strike sites (n = 173 lightning-damaged trees) and 10 matching control sites (n = 137 control trees) in Panama.The trunks of lightning-struck trees had 370% more beetle holes than control trees.The abundance of beetle holes increased with increasing total crown dieback among both control and lightning-damaged trees, and with larger tree diameter among lightning-struck trees. Beetle holes also were more abundant in trunk sections of lightning-damaged trees located directly below a damaged section of the crown.The results of this study suggest that lightning damage facilitates beetle colonization in tropical forest trees and provide a basis for investigations of the effects of lightning-caused disturbance on beetle population dynamics and assemblage structure.
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