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Compatibility of Prescribed Burning with the Conservation of Insects in Small, Isolated Prairie Reserves

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Entomologists have expressed concern that prescribed burning is incompatible with the conservation of insect species richness on small prairie sites. To address this issue, I examined the response and recovery of insect populations after fire within small, isolated tallgrass prairie remnants in northern Illinois, northwestern Indiana, and southeastern Wisconsin. I conducted this research over seven seasons, focused on responses at the species level, distinguished between remnant-dependent and remnant-independent species, and included multiple fire events and sites. I used sweep nets, light traps, sticky traps, and visual searches to gauge population responses and to track negatively affected populations to recovery. Most species (93%) responded consistently to prescribed fires. Postfire responses ranged from positive (26%) to negative (40%) for 151 species representing 33 families and seven orders. Three attributes—remnant-dependence, upland inhabitance, and nonvagility—were significant predictors of negative postfire response. Among negatively affected populations, 68% recovered within 1 year; all 163 populations tracked to recovery did so in 2 years or less. My results support the judicious use of rotational cool-season burning within small, isolated grassland sites.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Biology Department, Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. St. Louis Ave., Chicago, IL 60452, U.S.A.,

Publication date: October 1, 2002

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