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Oecologia. 2006 Aug;149(2):312-27. Epub 2006 Jun 28.

Biodiversity and resilience of arthropod communities after fire disturbance in temperate forests.

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WSL Swiss Federal Research Institute, Sottostazione Sud delle Alpi, 6501, Bellinzona, Switzerland.


Changes in ecosystem functions following disturbances are of central concern in ecology and a challenge for ecologists is to understand the factors that affect the resilience of community structures and ecosystem functions. In many forest ecosystems, one such important natural disturbance is fire. The aim of this study was to understand the variation of resilience in six functional groups of invertebrates in response to different fire frequencies in southern Switzerland. We measured resilience by analysing arthropod species composition, abundance and diversity in plots where the elapsed time after single or repeated fires, as determined by dendrochronology, varied. We compared data from these plots with data from plots that had not burned recently and defined high resilience as the rapid recovery of the species composition to that prior to fire. Pooling all functional groups showed that they were more resilient to single fires than to repeated events, recovering 6-14 years after a single fire, but only 17-24 years after the last of several fires. Flying zoophagous and phytophagous arthropods were the most resilient groups. Pollinophagous and epigaeic zoophagous species showed intermediate resilience, while ground-litter saprophagous and saproxylophagous arthropods clearly displayed the lowest resilience to fire. Their species composition 17-24 years post-burn still differed markedly from that of the unburned control plots. Depending on the fire history of a forest plot, we found significant differences in the dominance hierarchy among invertebrate species. Any attempt to imitate natural disturbances, such as fire, through forest management must take into account the recovery times of biodiversity, including functional group composition, to ensure the conservation of multiple taxa and ecosystem functions in a sustainable manner.

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