|Effects of burn regimes ontallgrass prairie herpetofaunal species diversity and communitycomposition in the Flint Hills, Kansas
|Year of Publication
|Wilgers, DJ, Horne, EA
|Journal of Herpetology
The Flint Hills region of Kansas is the largest contiguous area of tallgrass prairie remaining today. Historically, the tallgrass prairie burned every 2–3 yr on average, but current land managers have altered burn regimes, resulting in a range of habitats from annually burned to long-term unburned. We used drift fence/funnel trap arrays and coverboards to estimate species richness, evenness, and diversity of herpetofauna within three different burn regimes: annual, 4-yr, and long-term unburned at Konza Prairie Biological Station, Riley County, Kansas. During the spring and fall of 2003–2004, 315 individuals from 20 species were captured across all burn regimes. Herpetofaunal species richness, evenness, and diversity estimates were not different between the three burn treatments. However, because of species-specific responses to individual burn regimes, community composition was significantly different between the habitats (χ2 = 158.19, df = 20, P < 0.001). Four species exhibited preferences among burn regimes, which differed significantly from independent assortment, with Eumeces obsoletus and Phrynosoma cornutum preferring annual burn treatments, Scincella lateralis preferring 4-yr burn treatments, and Diadophis punctatus preferring long-term unburned treatments. Species-specific responses were likely because of changes in vegetation structure and microhabitat (temperature and moisture content) created through different frequencies of fire disturbances. Maximizing large-scale herpetofaunal diversity across the Flint Hills' rangelands could be accomplished by creating a large number of small scale habitat types through a mosaic style burning plan.