Table of Contents
Fire Ecology, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 2
Fire Decreases Arthropod Abundance But Increases Diversity: Early and Late Season Prescribed Fire Effects in a Sierra Nevada Mixed-Conifer Forest
Authors: Scott M. Ferrenberg, Dylan W. Schwilk, Eric E. Knapp, Eric Groth, and Jon E. Keeley
Prior to fire suppression in the 20th century, the mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, California, U.S.A., historically burned in frequent fires that typically occurred during the late summer and early fall. Fire managers have been attempting to restore natural ecosystem processes through prescription burning, and have often favored burning during the fall in order to mimic historical fire regimes. Increasingly, however, prescription burning is also being done during the late spring and early summer in order to expand the window of opportunity for needed fuel reduction burning. The effect of prescribed fires outside of the historical fire season on forest arthropods is not known. The objective of this study was to compare the short-term effects of prescribed fires ignited in the early and late fire season on forest floor arthropods. Arthropod abundance and diversity were assessed using pitfall trapping in replicated burn units in Sequoia National Park, California. Overall, abundance of arthropods was lower in the burn treatments than in the unburned control. However, diversity tended to be greater in the burn treatments. Fire also altered the relative abundances of arthropod feeding guilds. No significant differences in arthropod community structure were found between early and late season burn treatments. Instead, changes in the arthropod community appeared to be driven largely by changes in fuel loading, vegetation, and habitat heterogeneity, all of which differed more between the burned and unburned treatments than between early and late season burn treatments.
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