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Detecting invertebrate responses to fire depends on sampling method and taxonomic resolution

Authors

  • Luisa C. Teasdale,

    1. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Frank Fenner Building 141, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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  • Annabel L. Smith,

    Corresponding author
    1. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Frank Fenner Building 141, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
    2. ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and the NERP Environmental Decisions Hub, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
    • Corresponding author.

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  • Mailyn Thomas,

    1. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Frank Fenner Building 141, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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  • Catherine A. Whitehead,

    1. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Frank Fenner Building 141, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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  • Don A. Driscoll

    1. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Frank Fenner Building 141, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
    2. ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions and the NERP Environmental Decisions Hub, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
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Abstract

New knowledge about the responses of species to fire is needed to plan for biodiversity conservation in the face of changing fire regimes. However, the knowledge that is acquired may be influenced by the sampling method and the taxonomic resolution of a study. To investigate these potential sampling biases, we examined invertebrate responses to time since fire in mallee woodlands of southern Australia. Using a large-scale replicated study system, we sampled over 60 000 invertebrates with large pitfall traps, wet pitfall traps and sweep nets, and undertook analyses at morphospecies and order level. Large pitfalls and sweep nets detected several strong fire effects, whereas wet pitfall traps detected few effects. Invertebrate abundance in sweep nets was highest shortly after fire because of grasshopper outbreaks. Several additional morphospecies showed strong preferences for different stages in the post-fire succession. In contrast with morphospecies effects, analyses at order level either failed to detect fire effects or were driven by the most abundant species. For fire research to produce credible results with the potential to guide management, it must use a range of sampling techniques and undertake analyses at (morpho)species level. Homogeneous fire management, such as fire suppression in fragmented landscapes or widespread frequent burning for asset protection, is likely to cause declines in fire-affected invertebrates.

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