Fire ecology of rangeland arthropods in the Southern Great Plains

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2018-05

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Abstract

Fire has been a prominent disturbance in the American Great Plains since the end of the Pleistocene Epoch when humans first settled. Natural and anthropogenic fires maintained expansive grasslands and savannas that supported a diverse suite of fauna. In modern times, the reintroduction of fire onto rangelands of the Great Plains is a management goal that seeks to maintain these ecosystems by reducing the influence of woody plant species. Prescribed rangeland fire influences flora and fauna through direct and indirect effects. Direct effects are typically mortality to living organisms. Indirect effects are changes to abiotic and biotic processes that influence organismal populations. My goal was to evaluate direct and indirect effects on arthropods located in mixed-grass mesquite rangelands of the Texas Rolling Plains. I evaluated ground-active and plant-dwelling arthropods response to dormant seasons prescribed fires. I did not observe a direct effect of dormant season prescribed fire on abundances of arthropod taxa. However, I did observe indirect influences of fire through changes in vegetation structure and cover on arthropod taxa abundances. Further, I examined summer season long soil surface temperature differences among burned and unburned shortgrass rangelands. I found significantly greater variation in temperature extremes in recently burned areas compared to unburned areas. These results suggest that rangeland fire does affect arthropod populations in the Texas Rolling Plains. Further, land managers can use fire to influence arthropod populations that are important to wildlife species and that provide ecosystem services while also reducing woody plant abundance.

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Keywords

Wildland fire, Rangelands, Soil surface temperature, iButton, Scarabaeinae

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