The University of Arizona

Aboveground Macroinvertebrate Diversity and Abundance in Sand Sagebrush Prairie Managed With the Use of Pyric Herbivory

Elizabeth D. Doxon, Craig A. Davis, Samel D. Fuhlendorf

Abstract


Through pyric herbivory (i.e., fire-induced grazing patterns), native grasslands were historically a spatially heterogeneous environment. It is hypothesized that the mosaic of habitats created by pyric herbivory supports a more diverse invertebrate community compared to modern range management. Patch-burn management, a pyric herbivory technique, is an application of prescribed fire and grazing whereby the timing and location of the burned and grazed patches is varied, creating a diversity of habitat conditions. Although disturbance in sandsage (Artemisia filifolium Torr.) prairie historically included fire and grazing, fire disturbance has been nearly eradicated from this ecosystem in western Oklahoma. We compared patch-burn management to traditional management (i.e., moderate grazing with no fire) in sandsage prairie to evaluate the impact of these two management regimes on aboveground invertebrates. We sampled invertebrates at 44 points in each of 3 mo (May, June, and July) with the use of Dietrick vacuum sampling. Diversity, total abundance, and abundance of seven invertebrate orders (Araneae, Diptera, Hemiptera, Homoptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, and Orthoptera) were similar between patch-burn and traditional pastures. When examined on a patch level, five invertebrate orders were also similar between their respective time since burn patch and the traditional patches. Araneae and Coleoptera abundance were higher in traditional patches, and Hemiptera abundance was higher in current-year burn patches. Our results suggest a heterogeneity-based management scheme based on pyric herbivory does not negatively impact the overall invertebrate community and may benefit a wider variety of invertebrates by providing areas of varying levels of disturbance. In comparison, homogeneous landscapes such as those created by traditional management may only benefit segments of the invertebrate community that have habitat associations with moderately disturbed or undisturbed areas. Therefore, a disturbance regime involving the interaction of fire and grazing may be valuable for maintaining biodiversity and productivity within sandsage prairie ecosystems.


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