We studied the effect of a late growing-season fire on the plant and foliar arthropod communities in a naturally occurring grassland. In central Arkansas, these grasslands are common on south-facing slopes where shallow soils and hot/dry weather conditions during the summer cannot support the growth of a forest community. Patches of grassland were burned in the autumn (4 November, late growing season), often the time of natural fires in Arkansas, and compared to unburned areas. Fire increased the biomass of forbs and decreased the biomass of grasses, although overall biomass was not different between treatments. Among the foliar arthropods, herbivores were significantly reduced by burning, especially the Homoptera. Carnivorous arthropods as a whole were not affected by burning, although spiders showed a small but significant reduction. The response of arthropods to fire occurred almost one year after the burn, showing that fire effects can be delayed for a substantial period of time. This experiment shows that fire occurring during the natural burning period in Arkansas can have substantial effects on grasslands communities. The response of plants in Arkansas is similar to that of plants in nearby grasslands on the Great Plains and southeastern United States which also show a great increase in forbs under late growing season burning regimes. The changes seen in this experiment demonstrate that the suppression of fire by humans has probably modified the structure of Arkansas grasslands. With the increasing use of fire as a management tool in Arkansas, changes to grassland systems are likely to be profound.
Skelton, Laura; Polk, Amy; Fitzgerald, Brenna C.; and Moran, Matthew D.
"Fire Effects on Three Trophic Levels in a Central Arkansas Grassland,"
Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science: Vol. 56
, Article 25.
Available at: http://scholarworks.uark.edu/jaas/vol56/iss1/25