Ant community responses to experimental fire and logging in a eucalypt forest of south-eastern Australia

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Ecology and Biodiversity
TitleAnt community responses to experimental fire and logging in a eucalypt forest of south-eastern Australia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsAndersen, AN, Penman, TD, Debas, N, Houadria, M
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Pagination188 - 197
Date Published06/2009
AbstractSustainable forest management requires a sound understanding of the impacts of forestry management practices, especially prescribed fire and timber harvesting, on biodiversity. Many studies have examined the impacts of fire and logging separately, but few have considered them together. Here we describe the combined effects of selective logging and repeated prescribed fire on ants in eucalypt forest near Eden in south-eastern Australia. The study was conducted within 18 experimental coupes comprising three replicates of each of six treatments, representing combinations of two logging (selectively logged and unlogged) and three prescribed burning (unburnt, routine and high fire frequency over 20 years) practices. Ants were sampled using terrestrial and arboreal pitfall traps in two plots within each of the 18 coupes. A total of 92 species from 35 genera were recorded, with ant species richness increasing with both increasing fire frequency and selective harvesting. We also found significant differences in ant species composition between management treatments; however, these differences were rather modest, and apparent only between extremes of fire and harvesting combinations. Logging on its own was not a significant factor contributing to variation in ant species composition. However, the responses of two common species and a key functional group to fire depended on logging treatment; in each case their abundance decreased with increasing fire frequency at unlogged sites, but increased at logged sites. The general resilience of ant communities suggests that forests remain in good functional health even when subject to a combination of selective logging and frequent burning. However, our study under-sampled species with specialist microhabitat requirements, and these might have been more heavily impacted. We have also revealed some significant interactions between the effects of fire and logging, which highlights the importance of considering combined impacts of forest management practices.
Short TitleForest Ecology and Management
Refereed DesignationRefereed