Summer fire in steppe habitats: long-term effects on vegetation and autumnal assemblages of cursorial arthropods
Being an essential driving factor in dry grassland ecosystems, uncontrolled fires can cause damage to isolated natural areas. We investigated a case of a small-scale mid-summer fire in an abandoned steppe pasture in northeastern Ukraine andfocused on the post-fire recovery of arthropod assemblages (mainly spiders and beetles) and vegetation pattern. The living cover of vascular plants recovered in a year, while the cover of mosses and litter remained sparse for four years. The burnt site was colonised by mobile arthropods occurring in surrounding grasslands. The fire had no significant impact on arthropod diversity or abundance, but changed their assemblage structure, namely dominant complexes and trophic guild ratio. The proportion of phytophages reduced, while that of omnivores increased. The fire destroyed the variety of the arthropod assemblages created by the patchiness of vegetation cover. In the post-fire stage they were more similar to each other than at the burnt plot in the pre- and post-fire period. Spider assemblages tended to recover their pre-fire state, while beetle assemblages retained significant differences during the entire study period.
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