Fire Ecology, 2016
Volume 12, Issue 3
Fire Resilience of Aquatic Crustacean Resting Stages in Playa Wetlands, Oklahoma, USA
Authors: Eric G. Bright, Mohsain Gill, Ashtyn Barrientes, and Elizabeth A. Bergey
Prescribed burns and wildfires maintain prairie vegetation by limiting tree growth and promoting prairie grasses and forb production. Previous studies have shown that fire causes mixed effects on the prairie fauna, promoting some organisms while negatively affecting other organisms. Playa wetlands are interspersed within some semi-arid prairie landscapes, and are thereby subject to fire. These temporary wetlands can remain dry for years and less mobile aquatic taxa survive dry periods as drought resilient resting stages. We experimentally examined the effect of fire on the subsequent hatching of crustacean resting stages found in playa wetlands. Soil collected from four western Oklahoma playa wetlands was mixed and left unburned or exposed to burning (at three fuel levels: 0.5 time, 1 time, and 3 times the natural vegetation biomass) to simulate different fire intensities. We rehydrated soil taken from two depths (0 cm to 1 cm and 1 cm to 2 cm) for two weeks and examined hatched invertebrates and algal biomass. We did not find any significant difference in invertebrate richness and abundance or algal biomass from treated (burned) and untreated (unburned) soil in either of the soil layers. The resting stages of invertebrates are tolerant to a wide range of environmental factors and, consequently, are apparently tolerant (as a population) to increased soil temperatures resulting from low intensity burning.