Only multi-taxon studies show the full range of arthropod responses to fire

Yekwayo, Inam ; Pryke, James S. ; Gaigher, Rene ; Samways, Michael J. (2018-04-03)

CITATION: Yekwayo, I. et al. 2018. Only multi-taxon studies show the full range of arthropod responses to fire. PLoS ONE, 13(4):e0195414, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0195414.

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Fire is a major driver in many ecosystems. Yet, little is known about how different ground-living arthropods survive fire. Using three sampling methods, and time-since-fire (last fire event: 3 months, 1 year, and 7 years), we investigate how ground-living arthropod diversity responds to fire, and how species richness, diversity, abundance, and composition of the four dominant taxa: ants, beetles, cockroaches and mites, respond. We did this in the naturally fire-prone Mediterranean-type scrubland vegetation (fynbos) of the Cape Floristic Region. Surprisingly, overall species richness and diversity was the same for all time-since-fire categories. However, when each dominant taxon was analysed separately, effect of fire on species richness and abundance varied among taxa. This emphasizes that many taxa must be investigated to really understand fire-driven events. We also highlight the importance of using different diversity measures, as fire did not influence species richness and abundance of particular taxa, while it affected others, overall greatly affecting assemblages of all taxa. Rockiness affected species richness, abundance and composition of a few taxa. We found that all time-since-fire categories supported distinctive assemblages. Some indicator species occurred across all time-since-fire categories, while others were restricted to a single time-since-fire category, showing that there is a wide range of responses to fire between taxa. Details of local landscape structure, abiotic and biotic, and frequency and intensity of fire add complexity to the fire-arthropod interaction. Overall, we show that the relationship between fire and arthropods is phylogenetically constrained, having been honed by many millennia of fire events, and highly complex. Present-day species manifest a variety of adaptations for surviving the great natural selective force of fire.

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