Associate professor of biology Marc Milne recently combined with five UIndy students/graduates to publish Effects of Fire on Ground-Dwelling Spider (Araneae) Assmeblages in Central Indiana Forests in Environmental Entomology.
Fire is a natural disturbance that occurs in many temperate and tropical ecosystems worldwide. As ubiquitous members of these ecosystems, spiders (Araneae) are often affected by fire, and their response to this disturbance has been shown to be dependent on taxonomy, functional diversity, seasonality, and a variety of environmental factors. We examined the effect of fire on ground-dwelling spider assemblages in temperate forests in central Indiana over 5 yr and found that spider assemblages were significantly affected by fire disturbance. Overall spider abundance decreased, whereas species richness and diversity remained unaffected. We also found that spider response depended heavily on the family and/or guild to which the spider belonged. We suspect that altered habitat heterogeneity, the patchy nature of fire’s effect on leaf litter, and the high rate of recolonization by spiders all played important roles in these observed patterns.