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Short-Term Effects of a Summer Wildfire on a Desert Grassland Arthropod Community in New Mexico

Parmenter, Robert R., Kreutzian, Melissa, Moore, Douglas I., Lightfoot, David C.
Environmental entomology 2011 v.40 no.5 pp. 1051-1066
Ageneotettix deorum, Araneae, Aulocara, Carabidae, Cicindela, Eleodes, Gryllidae, Lithobiidae, Melanoplus, Polyphagidae, Scolopendra, Scorpiones, arthropod communities, arthropods, conservation areas, fuel loading, grasshoppers, grasslands, growing season, habitats, pitfall traps, predators, sand, wildfires, wood, New Mexico
Surface-active arthropods were sampled after a lightning-caused wildfire in desert grassland habitat on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro County, NM. Pitfall traps (n = 32 per treatment) were used to evaluate species-specific "activity-density" indices after the June wildfire in both burned and unburned areas. In total, 5,302 individuals were collected from 69 taxa. Herbivore activity-densities generally decreased, whereas predators often increased in the burned area; pitfall trap bias likely contributed to this latter observation. Fire caused the virtual extirpation of scaly crickets (Mogoplistidae), field crickets (Gryllidae), and camel crickets (Raphidophoridae), but recolonization began during the first postfire growing season. Several grasshoppers (Acrididae) also exhibited significant postfire declines [Ageneotettix deorum (Scudder), Eritettix simplex (Scudder), Melanoplus bowditchi Scudder, and Amphitornus coloradus (Thomas)]. Some beetles showed lower activity-density, including Pasimachus obsoletus LeConte (Carabidae) and Eleodes extricatus (Say) (Tenebrionidae). Taxa exhibiting significant postfire increases in activity-density included acridid grasshoppers (Aulocara femoratum (Scudder), Hesperotettix viridis (Thomas), Trimerotropis pallidipennis (Burmeis.), and Xanthippus corallipes Haldeman); carabid beetles (Amblycheila picolominii Reiche, Cicindela punctulata Olivier), tenebrionid beetles (Eleodes longicollis LeConte, Edrotes rotundus (Say), Glyptasida sordida (LeConte), Stenomorpha consors (Casey); the centipedes Taiyubius harrietae Chamberlin (Lithobiidae) and Scolopendra polymorpha Wood (Scolopendridae); scorpions (Vaejovis spp.; Vaejovidae); and sun spiders (Eremobates spp.; Eremobatidae). Native sand roaches (Arenivaga erratica Rehn, Eremoblata subdiaphana (Scudder); Polyphagidae) displayed no significant fire response. Overall, arthropod responses to fire in this desert grassland (with comparatively low and patchy fuel loads) were comparable to those in mesic grasslands with much higher and more continuous fuel loads.