Oak (Quercus sp.) dominated forests in the eastern United States are declining with competition from mesic tree species and reduced oak regeneration. One method of stimulating oak regeneration and reducing competitors is the controlled burning of the forest floor. In 1994, the USDA Forest Service began the Ecosystem Management Project to explore if prescribed burning would stimulate oak regeneration in southeastern Ohio, impact other non-target species, and to discern what burning regime would be most efficient.
As part of the project, I studied the impact of fires on the ground spider community of this ecosystem beginning in 1997. Four study areas were chosen based on soil type, forest composition, age and ownership. These sites were divided into three treatment units: control, which was never burned; infrequent, which was burned once; and frequent, which was burned in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Spiders were collected using pitfall traps.
Year to year changes had either greater impact on the spider community than treatment or site differences, or may have exaggerated the effects of treatments on the spider community. In general, frequently burned plots showed a tendency to yield lower numbers of individuals and species, while infrequently burned plots showed a tendency to yield higher numbers. Control groups were more likely to be similar in abundance to infrequently burned plots, although they more often exhibited similar community structure to that of the frequently burned plots. Management practices that include burning in forest restoration may need to include periodicity to maintain spider numbers and diversity.
Species 1: Araneae Lycosidae Schizocosa ocreata
Species 2: Araneae Amaurobiidae Wadotes calcaratus
Keywords: fire, spider ecology
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