Plant and Arthropod Community Responses to Fire in a Glade-Forest Landscape Matrix


J. Brandon Fuller

Additional Authors:

James T. Diggs, and Evan C. Lampert


May – 2023


Analysis of Similarity (ANOSIM), Fragmentation, Endemic Species, Ketona Dolomite, Non-Metric Multidimensional Scaling (nMDS)

Fragmented landscapes are a mosaic of ecosystems containing diverse communities of plants and herbivorous arthropods. Plant responses to fire in fire-prone ecosystems are well documented, but less is known about how plant-herbivorous arthropod interactions respond to fires. This study compared the responses of plant communities and their interactions with herbivorous arthropods to fire in a highly fragmented fire-prone glade system. Due to the mosaic landscape of the study site, three habitat types were chosen to delineate communities based on plant species composition, geology, and proximity to each other: small enclosed glade, large open glade, mixed hardwood forest, and pine savanna. From 2016–2019, we observed the interspecific interactions between plant and arthropod communities in the Ketona dolomitic glades of Bibb County in central Alabama. We identified plants to genus or species and recorded evidence of herbivory by seven herbivore guilds of arthropods. We used non-Metric Multidimensional Scaling and Analysis of Similarity to determine patterns of change between the habitats and across years for both plant species and interactions with herbivorous arthropods. Plant communities return to pre-burn species diversity within two years. Plant community composition was grouped strongly by habitat type and year, while interactions with herbivorous arthropods were homogenous across habitats but grouped strongly by year. Tracking herbivorous arthropod guilds using plant association evidence is useful for rapidly and temporally determining overall responses in herbivorous arthropod guild composition. However, it is too coarse to determine changes and responses in herbivorous arthropod guild composition at finer spatial scales.