Fires are a significant source of landscape scale disturbance in forested ecosystems, but fire effects also vary on small spatial scales due to differences in fuel loads and local environmental conditions. We tested the hypothesis that such variation influences post fire arthropod communities and faunal recovery rates on a 1 m2 scale. We measured the abundance and species richness of selected arthropod taxa pre- and post-fire in patches of leaf litter experimentally burned at different intensities. Arthropod abundance declined sharply immediately after a burn and decreased with increasing fire intensity. Consistent with other studies of this system, the effects of fire on arthropod communities were still apparent >4 w post burn. The abundance of epigeic beetles recovered more quickly than the abundance of ants or springtails in some treatments. Recovery rates also differed among treatments but did not consistently support the prediction that recovery would be faster in plots subject to low intensity burns. We conclude that small scale differences in intensity within prescribed fires have measurable effects on litter arthropod communities in Ozark forests; however, these differences appear to be overshadowed by the more general effects of fire on arthropods.
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Vol. 172 • No. 1