Title: Shared community patterns following experimental fire in a semiarid grassland
Author: Ford, Paulette L.
Source: In: Proceedings of the 4th International Wildland Fire Conference; May 13-17 2007; Seville, Spain.
Publication Series: Paper (invited, offered, keynote)
Description: This paper presents a synthesis of experimental research testing effects of seasonal fire on community structure of plants, arthropods, and small mammals in shortgrass steppe. These groups of plants and animals share the same environment, and therefore, the species in the groups were predicted to respond in a similar way to changes in their environment resulting from fire. The experimental design was completely randomized with 3 treatments and at least 4 replicate 2-ha plots per treatment. Treatments were growing- and dormant-season fires and unburned. Response variables included: plant species richness; abundance and species richness of beetles (coleopterans), and grasshoppers, crickets, mantids, and walkingsticks (orthopterans); and relative abundance of three species of small mammals: Onychomys leucogaster (northern grasshopper mouse), Spermophilus tridecemlineatus (thirteen-lined ground squirrel), and Reithrodontomys montanus (plains harvest mouse). The groups exhibited some shared patterns of community structure in response to fire, while other patterns appeared to be species-specific. The dormant-season fire treatment was the only treatment that had statistically significantly higher plant species richness than the unburned treatment. Mean orthopteran species richness was significantly higher on both fire-treated plots than unburned plots, however, there were no significant differences in mean abundances. Coleopteran species numbers were significantly higher on growing-season fire-treated plots than on unburned treatments, but there were no significant differences among dormant-season fire vs. unburned treatments. Coleopteran abundance did not differ significantly among treatments. All three mammal species responded differentially to the fire treatments. Relative abundance of the northern grasshopper mouse was significantly higher on both firetreated plots than on unburned plots. Relative abundance of the plains harvest mouse averaged lower on both fire treatments than the unburned treatment, but was not statistically different. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel appeared unaffected by fire. Many of the mechanisms behind the species-specific and shared response patterns may be attributed to the life histories of the species. If grassland community responses to fire are well understood and predictable, then fire can be used as an effective management tool on a landscape level to create desirable landscape patterns for managing populations of plant and animal species.
Keywords: community, experimental fire, semiarid grassland, shortgrass steppe, coleopterans, orthopterans, Onychomys leucogaster, Spermophilus tridecemlineatus, Reithrodontomys montanus
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Ford, Paulette L. 2007. Shared community patterns following experimental fire in a semiarid grassland. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Wildland Fire Conference; May 13-17 2007; Seville, Spain.
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