Macroinvertebrates in North American tallgrass prairie soils: effects of fire, mowing, and fertilization on density and biomass

Author: Callaham, M.

Description: The responses of tallgrass prairie plant communities and ecosystem processes to fire and grazing are well characterized. However, responses of invertebrate consumer groups, and particularly soil-dwelling organisms, to these disturbances are not well known. At Konza Prairie Biological Station, we sampled soil macroinvertebrates in 1994 and 1999 as part of a long-term experiment designed to examine the effects and interactions of annual fire, mowing, and fertilization (N and P) on prairie soil communities and processes. For nearly all taxa, in both years, responses were characterized by significant treatment interactions, but some general patterns were evident. Introduced European earthworms (Aporrectodea spp. and Octolasion spp.) were most abundant in plots where fire was excluded, and the proportion of the total earthworm community consisting of introduced earthworms was greater in unburned, unmowed, and fertilized plots. Nymphs of two Cicada genera were collected (Cicadetta spp. and Tibicen spp.). Cicadetta nymphs were more abundant in burned plots, but mowing reduced their abundance. Tibicen nymphs were collected almost exclusively from unburned plots. Treatment effects on herbivorous beetle larvae (Scarabaeidae, Elateridae, and Curculionidae) were variable, but nutrient additions (N or P) usually resulted in greater densities, whereas mowing usually resulted in lower densities. Our results suggest that departures from historical disturbance regimes (i.e. frequent fire and grazing) may render soils more susceptible to increased numbers of European earthworms, and that interactions between fire, aboveground biomass removal, and vegetation responses affect the structure and composition of invertebrate communities in tallgrass prairie soils.

Subject headings: Biomass; Earthworms; Cicadidae; Scarabaeidae; Elateridae; Curculionidae; Insect herbivores; Disturbance; Nitrogen; Phosphorus; Fertilizer; Grassland; Fire; Fertilization

Publication year: 2003

Journal or book title: Soil Biology and Biochemistry

Volume: 35

Issue: 8

Pages: 1079-1093

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 2349