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Decadal post-fire succession of soil invertebrate communities is dependent on the soil surface properties in a northern temperate forest

Auclerc, Apolline, Le Moine, James M., Hatton, Pierre-Joseph, Bird, Jeffrey A., Nadelhoffer, Knute J.
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.647 pp. 1058-1068
Diplopoda, Populus grandidentata, Quercus, Stelidota, autumn, burning, chronosequences, community structure, deciduous forests, fires, fruits, habitats, leaves, macroinvertebrates, models, pitfall traps, soil invertebrates, soil properties, spring, temperate forests, understory, vegetation cover, Great Lakes region, United States
Although fires are common disturbances in North American forests, the extent to which soil invertebrate assemblages recover from burning remains unclear. Here, we examine long-term (14- to 101-yr) recoveries of soil invertebrate communities from common cut and burn treatments conducted at 6 to 26-yr intervals since 1911 in a deciduous forest in the upper Great Lakes region (USA). We characterize soil surface macro-invertebrate communities during both fall and spring across a long-term, experimental fire chronosequence to characterize invertebrate community recovery at decadal time-scales and community changes between seasons. We posited that changes in invertebrate community structure might, in turn, impact decomposition process. We sampled active organisms at the soil surface using pitfall traps. We described understory vegetation, measured soil properties, and conducted a 4-year litter bag study with big-toothed aspen leaves (Populus grandidentata). Invertebrate community responses followed a habitat accommodation model of succession showing that invertebrate succession is dependent on the soil surface properties. The fall and spring measures revealed that the densities of active invertebrates were highest 101 years after fire. For a given pair of stands, a pattern of sharing higher percentage of taxa was denoted when stands were of similar age. Some species such as the beetle Stelidota octomaculata appeared to be indicator of the chronosequence succession stage because it tracks the successional increase of Quercus and acorn production at the study site. We also found a significant positive correlation between leaf decomposition of soil macrofaunal accessible leaves and millipedes density across the chronosequence. We show that vegetation cover changes and related shifts in habitat structure occurring during post-fire succession are important in shaping communities assemblages. This finding highlights the importance of simultaneously considering abiotic-biotic factors together with above- and belowground measurements to better characterize controls on successional community dynamics after disturbance.