Fire frequency and mosaic burning effects on atallgrass prairie ground beetle assemblage

TitleFire frequency and mosaic burning effects on atallgrass prairie ground beetle assemblage
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsCook, WM, Holt, RD
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Pagination2301 -2323
Accession NumberKNZ001068
KeywordsCarabidae, Fire frequency, Ground beetles, Pitfall trapping, Species richness, tallgrass prairie

Fire frequency has significant effects on the biota of tallgrass prairie, including mammals, vascular plants and birds. Recent concern has been expressed that widespread annual burning, sometimes in combination with heavy livestock grazing, negatively impacts the biota of remaining prairie remnants. A common management recommendation, intended to address this problem, is to create a landscape with a mosaic of different burn regimes. Pitfall trapping was used to investigate the impacts of fire pattern on the diversity and species composition of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) at Konza Prairie Biological Station in eastern Kansas, USA. Trapping was conducted over three seasons in landscape units burned on average every 1, 4, or 20 years, and in a fourth season across the available range of vegetative structure to assess the variability of the community within the study system. In the fifth season communities were also followed immediately after two fire events to detect within-season effects of fire and to study short-term patterns of post-disturbance community assembly. Fire frequency had comparatively minimal effects on ground beetle diversity measures, and most numerically common species were observed widely across habitat and management types. Fire frequency effects were manifested primarily in changes in abundance of common species. Colonization of burned areas apparently did not occur from juxtaposed non-burned areas, but from underground or from long distances. While these results suggest that widespread annual burning of tallgrass prairie remnants may not have dramatic effects on prairie ground beetles, we urge caution regarding the application of these results to other taxa within tallgrass prairie.