Fire Frequency and Mosaic Burning Effects on a Tallgrass Prairie Ground Beetle Assemblage

  • William M. CookEmail author
  • Robert D. Holt


Fire frequency has significant effects on the biota of tallgrass prairie, including mammals, vascular plants and birds. Recent concern has been expressed that widespread annual burning, sometimes in combination with heavy livestock grazing, negatively impacts the biota of remaining prairie remnants. A common management recommendation, intended to address this problem, is to create a landscape with a mosaic of different burn regimes. Pitfall trapping was used to investigate the impacts of fire pattern on the diversity and species composition of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) at Konza Prairie Biological Station in eastern Kansas, USA. Trapping was conducted over three seasons in landscape units burned on average every 1, 4, or 20 years, and in a fourth season across the available range of vegetative structure to assess the variability of the community within the study system. In the fifth season communities were also followed immediately after two fire events to detect within-season effects of fire and to study short-term patterns of post-disturbance community assembly. Fire frequency had comparatively minimal effects on ground beetle diversity measures, and most numerically common species were observed widely across habitat and management types. Fire frequency effects were manifested primarily in changes in abundance of common species. Colonization of burned areas apparently did not occur from juxtaposed non-burned areas, but from underground or from long distances. While these results suggest that widespread annual burning of tallgrass prairie remnants may not have dramatic effects on prairie ground beetles, we urge caution regarding the application of these results to other taxa within tallgrass prairie.


Carabidae Fire frequency Ground beetles Pitfall trapping Species richness Tallgrass prairie 


  1. Allen, R.T. 1979The occurrence and importance of ground beetles in agricultural and surrounding habitatsErwin, T.L.Ball, G.E.Whitehead, D.R.Halpern, A.L. eds. Carabid Beetles: Their Evolution, Natural History, and ClassificationDr. W. Junk PublishersBoston485505Google Scholar
  2. Arnett, R.H.,Jr. 2000American Insects: a Handbook of the Insects of America North of MexicoCRC PressBoca Raton, FloridaGoogle Scholar
  3. Baars, M.A. 1979Catches in pitfall traps in relation to mean densities of carabid beetlesOecologia412546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Briggs, J.M., Fahnestock, J.T., Fisher, L.E., Knapp, A.K. 1992Aboveground biomass in tallgrass prairie: effect of time since fireWickett, R.G.Lewis, P.D.Woodliffe, A.Pratt, P. eds. Spirit of the Land: Our Prairie Legacy. Proceedings of the Thirteenth North American Prairie ConferencePPreney Print and Litho Inc.Windsor, Ontario, Canada165169Google Scholar
  5. Briggs, J.M., Knapp, A.K., Brock, B.L. 2002Expansion of woody plants in tallgrass prairie: a fifteen-year study of fire and fire-grazing interactionsAm. Midland Nat.147287294Google Scholar
  6. Burrows, N., Abbott, I. 2003Fire in south-west Western Australia: synthesis of current knowledgemanagement implications and new research directionsAbbott, I.Burrows, N. eds. Fire in Ecosystems of South-West Australia: Impacts and ManagementBackhuys PublishersLeiden, the Netherlands437452Google Scholar
  7. Chambers, B.Q. 1998Grasshopper response to a 40-year experimental burning and mowing regimewith recommendations for invertebrate conservation managementBiodiv. Conserv.79851012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Collins, S.L., Steinauer, E.M. 1998Disturbance, diversity and species interactions in tallgrass prairieKnapp, A.K.Briggs, J.M.Hartnett, D.C.Collins, S.L. eds. Grassland Dynamics: Long-Term Ecological Research in Tallgrass PrairieOxfordOxford University Press140156Google Scholar
  9. Collins, S.L., Wallace, L.L. 1990Fire in North American tallgrass prairiesUniversity of Oklahoma PressNorman, OklahomaGoogle Scholar
  10. Cook, W.M., Lane, K.T., Foster, B.L., Holt, R.D. 2002Island theory, matrix effects, and species richness patterns in habitat fragmentsEcol. Letts.5619623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. den Boer, P.J. 1970On the significance of dispersal power for populations of carabid-beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae)Oecologia4128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boer, P.J. 1971Stabilization of animal numbers and the heterogeneity of the environment: the problem of the persistence of sparse populationBoer, P.J.Gradwell, G.R. eds. Dynamics of PopulationsH. Veenman & Zonen N.VWageningen, The Netherlands7797Proceedings of the Advanced Study Institute on Dynamics of Numbers in Populations, Oosterbeek, the Netherlands.Google Scholar
  13. Epstein, M.E., Kulman, H.M. 1990Habitat distribution and seasonal occurrence of carabid beetles in east-central MinnesotaAm. Midland Nat.123209225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Evans, W.G. 1983Habitat selection in the CarabidaeColeopterists Bull.37164167Google Scholar
  15. Fay, P.A., Samenus, R.J.,Jr. 1993Gall wasp (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) mortality in a spring tallgrass prairie fireEnviron. Entomol.2213331337Google Scholar
  16. Heisler, J.L., Briggs, J.M., Knapp, A.K. 2003Long-term patterns of shrub expansion in a C4-dominated grassland: fire frequency and the dynamics of shrub cover and abundanceAm. J. Botany90423428Google Scholar
  17. Higgins, J.J., Larson, G.E., Higgins, K.F. 2001Managing tallgrass prairie remnants for grassland birdsEcol. Restoration201822Google Scholar
  18. Hill, M.O., Gauch, H.G.,Jr. 1980Detrended Correspondence Analysis: an improved ordination techniqueVegetatio424758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Holliday, N.J. 1984Carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) from a burned spruce forest (Piceo spp.)Can. Entomol.116919922Google Scholar
  20. Holt, R.D. 1997From metapopulation dynamics to community structure: some consequences of spatial heterogeneityHanski, I.Gilpin, M.E. eds. Metapopulation Biology : Ecology, Genetics, and EvolutionAcademic PressSan Diego, California149164Google Scholar
  21. Kaufman, G.A., Kaufman, D.W. 1997Ecology of small mammals in prairie landscapesKnopf, F.L.Samson, F.B. eds. Ecology and Conservation of Great Plains VertebratesSpringer-VerlagNew York207243Google Scholar
  22. Keith, D.A., Williams, J.E., Woinarski, J.C.Z. 2002Fire management and biodiversity conservation: key approaches and principlesBradstock, R.A.Williams, J.E.Gill, A.M. eds. Flammable Australia: The Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a ContinentCambridge University PressCambridge, U.KGoogle Scholar
  23. Kirk, V.M. 1971Ground beetles in cropland in South DakotaAnnals Entomol. Soc. America64238241Google Scholar
  24. Knapp, A.K., Briggs, J.M., Blair, J.M., Turner, C.L. 1998aPatterns and controls of aboveground net primary productivity production in tallgrass prairieKnapp, A.K.Briggs, J.M.Hartnett, D.C.Collins, S.L. eds. Grassland Dynamics: Long-Term Ecological Research in Tallgrass PrairieOxfordOxford University Press193221Google Scholar
  25. Knapp, A.K.Briggs, J.M.Hartnett, D.C.Collins, S.L. eds. 1998bGrassland Dynamics: Long-Term Ecological Research in Tallgrass PrairieOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  26. Knapp, A.K., Seastedt, T.R. 1998Grassland, Konza Prairie and long-term ecological researchKnapp, A.K.Briggs, J.M.Hartnett, D.C.Collins, S.L. eds. Grassland Dynamics: Long-Term Ecological Research in Tallgrass PrairieOxford University PressOxford315Google Scholar
  27. Larochelle, A., Larivière, M.-C. 2003A Natural History of the Ground-Beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) of America North of MexicoPensoft PublishersSofia, BulgariaGoogle Scholar
  28. Larsen, K.J., Williams, J.B. 1999Influence of fire and trapping effort on ground beetles in a reconstructed tallgrass prairiePrairie Nat.317586Google Scholar
  29. Launchbaugh J.L., Owensby C.E., Brethour J.R. and Smith E.F. 1983. Intensive early stocking studies in Kansas. Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station Progress Report 441.Google Scholar
  30. Law, B.S., Dickman, C.R. 1998The use of habitat mosaics by terrestrial vertebrate fauna: implications for conservation and managementBiodiv. Conserv.7323333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Luff, M.L. 1975Some features influencing the efficiency of pitfall trapsOecologia19345357Google Scholar
  32. McCoy, E.D. 1987The ground-dwelling beetles of periodically-burned plots of sandhillFlorida Entomol.703139Google Scholar
  33. Morris, R.F. 1960Sampling insect populationsAnnu. Rev. Entomol.5243264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Niemalä, J., Halme, E., Haila, Y. 1990Balancing sampling effort in pitfall trapping of carabid beetlesEntomol. Fennica1233238Google Scholar
  35. Panzer, R. 2003Importance of in situ survival, recolonization, and habitat gaps in the postfire recovery of fire-sensitive prairie insect speciesNat. Areas J.231421Google Scholar
  36. Panzer, R., Schwartz, M. 1999Effects of management burning on prairie insect species richness within a system of small, highly fragmented reservesBiol. Conserv.96363369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Parr, C.L., Brockett, B.H. 1999Patch-mosaic burning: a new paradigm for savanna fire management in protected areas?Koedoe42117130Google Scholar
  38. Pons, P., Lambert, B., Rigolot, E., Prodon, R. 2003The effects of grassland management using fire on habitat occupancy and conservation of birds in a mosaic landscapeBiodiv. Conserv.1218431860CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Refseth, D. 1980Ecological analyses of carabid communities - potential use in biological classification for nature conservationBiol. Conserv.17131141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Reichman, O.J. 1987Konza Prairie: a Tallgrass Natural HistoryUniversity of Kansas PressLawrenceGoogle Scholar
  41. Richardson, R.J., Holliday, N.J. 1982Occurrence of carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) in a boreal forest damaged by fireCan. Entomol.114509514Google Scholar
  42. Rickard, W.H. 1970Ground beetles in burned and unburned vegetationJ. Range Manage.23293294Google Scholar
  43. Robbins, M.B., Peterson, A.T., Ortega-Huerta, M.A. 2002Major negative impacts of early intensive cattle stocking on tallgrass prairies: the case of the greater prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) North Am. Birds26239244Google Scholar
  44. Rohrbaugh R.J., Reinking D.L., Wolfe D.H., Sherrod S.K. and Jenkins M.A. 1999. Effects of prescribed burning and grazing on nesting and reproductive success of three grassland passerine species in tallgrass prairie. In: Vickery P.D. and Herkert J.R. (eds), Ecology and Conservation of Grassland Birds of the Western Hemisphere. Cooper Ornithological Society.Google Scholar
  45. Rykken, J., Capen, D.E., Mahabir, S.P. 1997Ground beetles as indicators of land type diversity in the Green Mountains of VermontConserv. Biol.11522530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Samson, F., Knopf, F.L. 1994Prairie conservation in North AmericaBioScience44418421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Setser, K., Cavitt, J.F. 2003Effects of burning on snakes in Kansas, USAtallgrass prairieNat. Areas J.23315319Google Scholar
  48. Shmida, A., Wilson, M.V. 1985Biological determinants of species diversityJ. Biogeogr.12120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shriver, W.G., Vickery, P.D. 2001Response of breeding Florida grasshopper and Bachman's sparrows to winter prescribed burningJ. Wildlife Manage.65470475Google Scholar
  50. Sieg, C.H., Flather, C.H., McCanny, S. 1999Recent biodiversity patterns in the Great Plains: implications for restoration and managementGreat Plains Res.9277313Google Scholar
  51. Smith, E.F., Owensby, C.E. 1978Intensive early stocking and season-long stocking of Kansas Flint Hills rangeJ. Range Manage.311417Google Scholar
  52. Swengel, A.B. 2001A literature review of insect responses to firecompared to other conservation managements of open habitatBiodiv. Conserv.1011411169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thiele, H.-U. 1977Carabid Beetles in Their Environments: A Study on Habitat Selection by Adaptations in Physiology and BehaviorSpringer-VerlagNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Amburg, G.L., Swaby, J.A., Pemble, R.H. 1981Response of arthropods to a spring burn of a tallgrass prairie in northwestern MinnesotaStuckey, R.L.Reese, K.J. eds. The Prairie Peninsula -In the Shadow of Transeau: Proceedings of the Sixth North American Prairie ConferenceThe Ohio State UniversityColumbus, Ohio240243Google Scholar
  55. Villa-Castillo, J., Wagner, M.R. 2002Ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) species assemblage as an indicator of forest condition in northern Arizona ponderosa pine forestsEnviron. Entomol.31242252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vogl, R.J. 1974Effects of fire on grasslandsKozlowski, T.T.Ahlgren, C.E. eds. Fire and EcosystemsAcademic PressNew York139194Google Scholar
  57. Walk, J.W., Warner, R.E. 2000Grassland management for the conservation of songbirds in the midwestern USABiol. Conserv.94165172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Weeks, R.D.J., McIntyre, N.E. 1997A comparison of live versus kill pitfall trapping techniques using various killing agentsEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata82267273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Zimmerman, J.L. 1997Avian community responses to firegrazing, and drought in the tallgrass prairieKnopf, F.L.Samson, F.B. eds. Ecology and Conservation of Great Plains VertebratesSpringer-VerlagNew York167180Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Environmental StudiesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyGainesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations