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Reintroduced grazers and prescribed fire effects on beetle assemblage structure and function in restored grasslands

Citation

Barber, Nicholas et al. (2020), Reintroduced grazers and prescribed fire effects on beetle assemblage structure and function in restored grasslands, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.8931zcrnb

Abstract

Ecological restoration seeks to re-establish functioning ecosystems, but planning and evaluation often focus on taxonomic community structure and neglect consumers and their functional roles. The functional trait composition of insect assemblages, which make up the majority of animal diversity in many systems, can reveal how they are affected by restoration management and the consequences for ecosystem function. We sampled ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) assemblages in restored tallgrass prairies varying in management with prescribed fire and reintroduced American bison (Bison bison) to describe their taxonomic and functional trait structure. We also measured seed and arthropod predation to relate management, beetle assemblage characteristics, and function, and to test if function is maximized by trait diversity, dominant trait values, or beetle abundance. Beetle assemblages primarily varied with restoration age, declining over time in richness and both taxonomic and functional diversity, but bison presence also influenced taxonomic composition. Prescribed fire reduced seed predation in summer and arthropod predation in fall. Although seed predation was unrelated to beetle assemblages, arthropod predation was greater in sites with higher abundances of carnivorous ground beetles. The relatively weak impacts of fire and bison on functional assemblage structure is a promising sign that these management disturbances, aimed at supporting a diverse native plant community, are not detrimental to beetle assemblages. The significance of reduced predator function following prescribed fire will depend on the restoration context and whether seed or arthropod predation relates to management goals.

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1647502

Friends of Nachusa Grasslands

Prairie Biotic Research

Friends of Nachusa Grasslands