Influence of Fire Seasonality on Insect Pollinators in a Sand sage ecosystem

Date

August 2023

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Abstract

Pollinators are essential for seed production in natural and agricultural environments, but recent research indicates that their populations are declining. The observed decrease in pollinator population can be attributed to various factors such as habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, and pesticides. These declines have led land managers to explore ways to enhance pollinator habitats. The use of prescribed fire is one crucial tool for managing the landscape in the Rolling Plains of Texas. This study focuses on understanding how the seasonality of fires affects insect pollinators in the sand-sage prairie ecosystem at the Matador Wildlife Management Area in Cottle County, Texas. The Matador Wildlife Management Area 273-hectare “Headquarters Pasture” is the focus of this study. The pasture is divided into fifteen plots, each of which is subject to variations in prescribed burn treatment. Five plots are burned in winter, some are burned in the summer, while others remain unburned year-round. To assess the number of insect pollinators in each burn regime, malaise traps were set up at the center of every plot for two weeks, starting from the second week of May and July in 2021 and 2022. The samples were collected during the same period for both years. A total of 20,815 insects were collected in the malaise traps over eight weeks. Using R, a multivariate abundance model and Simpson's Diversity index were used to measure biodiversity and abundance across treatments, sampling seasons, and years. The multivariate abundance model indicated that the influence of burn treatment was not statistically significant. Abundance varied significantly between years and seasons for particular orders, likely due to weather patterns during the sampling periods. The diversity analysis using the Inverse Simpson's Diversity index did not show significant differences based on the burn treatment. However, there was a significant diversity difference for some orders based on the year, possibly due to weather conditions. The study's findings do not currently warrant any management recommendations. Future studies with higher resolution, more differentially burned plots, over more time, or to a finer taxonomic scale will be necessary to determine the impact of fire seasonality on insect pollinators in a sand sage ecosystem.

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Keywords

Biology, Entomology

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