The impact of a late winter prescribed fire on soil/ litter arthropods was assessed in a mixed mesophytic forest of eastern Kentucky. On two sites, four burned plots were established adjacent to four non-burned control plots. Each plot contained three stations where arthropods were sampled using large capacity pitfall traps and leaf litter samples extracted with Berlese funnels. Sampling occurred at 14 d intervals during the post-burn season, and at 60 d intervals one year post-burn. In addition, habitat variables such as canopy cover, herbaceous ground cover, and litter cover and depth were measured early-, mid-, and late-season in both years to fully characterize plots.
Here we concentrate on results from litter sampling. Prescribed burning caused a 56% reduction in herbaceous ground cover, an 85% reduction in leaf litter cover and a 90% reduction in litter depth. A total of 18 taxa were identified in the leaf litter samples. Mites were the most abundant litter taxa, followed by collembolans. Initial fire-induced mortality of litter arthropods was 64%, including a 64% reduction of mites and an 87% reduction of collembolans. Litter arthropod abundance did not recover during the post-burn season. Sampling continues one year post-burn to assess the time required for recovery of the litter community.
Keywords: fire ecology
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