Frequent fuel-reduction burning

The role of logs and associated leaf litter in the conservation of ant biodiversity

N. Andrew*, L. Rodgerson, A. York

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

72 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Frequent low-intensity fires are used in management of Australian forests to reduce fuel loads and protect natural resources and human property. Low-intensity fires are typically patchy and unburned litter micro-habitats are often associated with large objects such as logs, which may act as refuges both for vertebrate and for invertebrate fauna. The aim of this study was to determine whether ants were using unburned leaf litter micro-habitats associated with logs as a refuge after fire. The study was carried out in Bulls Ground State Forest, New South Wales, Australia, where experimentally burned and unburned sites had previously been established. Species richness and abundance of ants in leaf litter did not differ between habitats adjacent to logs and away from logs, in burned and unburned sites. Fifteen of the 42 ant species were found in all four habitats, and contributed 94% of total ant abundance. Every habitat had a group of unique species, which together made up 30% of the total species richness. There was also a distinct group of species that was not found in the leaf litter associated with the burned/open habitat. However, as 45% of all species were found in low abundance (less than 10 individuals), care must be taken in inferring patterns for these groups. When functional groups were used to assess community structure, 'cryptic' species were found to be common in all habitats, whereas 'subordinate Camponotini' were found in burned habitats only. This study indicates that in an area where frequent burning is applied on a broad scale, preserving a range of microhabitats, including those associated with retained logs, may make a substantial contribution to conserving ant biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-107
Number of pages9
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2000

Keywords

  • Ants
  • Community structure
  • Fire management
  • Forests
  • Functional groups
  • Leaf litter
  • Logging
  • Tullgren funnels

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