The implications of succession after fire for the conservation management of moorland invertebrate assemblages
Driessen, MM and Kirkpatrick, JB, The implications of succession after fire for the conservation management of moorland invertebrate assemblages, Journal of Insect Conservation, 21, (1) pp. 15-37. ISSN 1366-638X (2017) [Refereed Article]
Fire management in protected areas requires an understanding of the consequences of fire regimes. Invertebrates are a key component of biological communities, but studies of fire impacts on diverse invertebrate assemblages over long timeframes are rare. The responses of ground- and foliage-active invertebrate assemblages to fire in buttongrass moorlands were investigated using a space-for-time design. Assemblages in recently burnt moorlands were distinct from those in older moorlands. Contrary to expectations, ground-active invertebrate abundance, but not taxon richness, was greatest in young regrowth (2–3 years since last fire), owing to large populations of Formicidae, Orthoptera, Collembola and Diptera. Foliage-active invertebrate assemblages followed the expected trend with least numbers of invertebrates and taxa in young regrowth. Very few taxa (n = 9) were absent from young successional stages and none were absent from later successional stages. Invertebrate assemblages in moorlands on low productivity soils took approximately twice as long to return to their pre-fire state than assemblages on moderate productivity soils. The shifts in invertebrate composition were associated with shifts in vegetation composition. Vegetation density was found to be a potentially important predictor of invertebrate compositional variation. Fire in buttongrass moorland appears to have a limited impact on ground-active and foliage-active invertebrate assemblages, suggesting that these components of the invertebrate fauna are resilient to fire (i.e. able to return to the pre-fire state). Given that fire impedes successional processes that convert moorlands into rainforest, and eliminate many of the moorland invertebrate species, conservation management of moorlands should involve the acceptance or imposition of fire.