Timing of prescribed burns affects abundance and composition of arthropods in the Texas Hill Country

Sally D. Johnson, Katherine C. Horn, Amy M. Savage, Steve Windhager, Mark T. Simmons, Jennifer A. Rudgers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Prior research has demonstrated that fire can be an important structuring force for plant communities in prairies and grasslands. However, investigations of land-management techniques, such as prescribed fire, often overlook responses of local fauna, particularly the arthropods. In this study, we examined a previously unappreciated, although potentially important, component of fire ecology by asking, does the timing of prescribed burns alter community structure of arthropods? At a site in the Texas Hill Country, we used sweep-net sampling to collected arthropods from experimental plots that had been treated with a summer-burn or winter-burn regime. Summer-burn plots supported >170% more individual arthropods than winter burns. Although overall diversity of arthropods did not significantly differ between treatments, there were significantly more carnivorous arthropods and marginally more herbivorous arthropods after fire in summer relative to fire in winter. Effects of timing were particularly strong for Cicadellidae (leaf hoppers) and Tetragnathidae (long-jawed spiders). Our results demonstrate that timing of prescribed fire can substantially alter composition of resident communities of arthropods. Furthermore, these data highlight the importance of examining composition of the community, in addition to diversity indices, when assessing response of arthropods to land-management techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-145
Number of pages9
JournalSouthwestern Naturalist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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