Effects of the 1988 Fires in Yellowstone National Park, USA, on the Ant Populations (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)
Invertebrates play an important role in forest and grassland ecological processes, including nutrient cycling, decomposition, and seed dispersal. Litter-dwelling invertebrates may decline significantly where the forest floor or sagebrush litter layer is burned in wildfires. The 1988 Yellowstone National Park complex of wildfires in western Wyoming, USA, provided an opportunity to study fire effects on forested and sagebrush fire effects on soil/litter invertebrate community species richness, evenness, densities, similarities, and trophic levels. Based on 4500 pit fall traps samples collected one and two years after the wildfires, we identified 19 ant species from forested and sagebrush sites. Undisturbed forested sites contained 13 species, burned forested sites contained 14 species, edges of burned sites contained 6 species, undisturbed sagebrush sites contained 12 species, and burned sagebrush sites contained 4 species. Formica dominated in density and species. Ant species-richness did not change in forested areas after the fires but did decrease significantly in sagebrush litter after the fires. Community evenness significantly increased in fire affected forested areas and increased slightly in sagebrush burned areas as compared to non-burned areas. Forested community similarities declined in burned sites as compared to non-burned sites and declined only slightly in sagebrush burned areas.
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