Post-fire succession in Yellowstone's springtail community

Kulikowski, Andy
Arthropods fill numerous ecological roles during post-fire succession, including pollination, mediation of flora via herbivory, and decomposition. Particularly important are the ecosystem services provided by litter and soil arthropods in the class Collembola. Collembolans, commonly referred to as springtails, are minute hexapods that occupy nearly every terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. Due to a varied diet of bacteria, fungus, detritus, and other soil organisms, springtails play a major role within the soil ecosystem. These foraging habits directly and indirectly influence mycorrhizal fungi/plant-root interactions and nutrient cycling in the soil, both essential processes during post-fire succession. The 1988 fires that burned a major portion of Yellowstone National Park provide an opportunity to examine long-term arthropod response to such disturbance. Through an extensive survey of Collembola within the Huckleberry Mountain study area, I show that significant heterogeneity exists between burned and non-burned plots. In particular, burned areas show greater overall species diversity, especially in the months of June and August. Collembola functional diversity as expressed by key functional traits is also influenced by burn history, possibly due to differences in vegetative structuring. This work represents the first successional analysis of Collembola in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and broadens our understanding of how disturbance affects these diverse and highly abundant organisms.
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