Untangling patterns of plant and arthropod diversity in a fire-adapted ecosystem: Dynamic relationships between fire, scale, and trophic interactions in longleaf pine forests.
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Fire has been a part of terrestrial ecosystems since the Silurian Period and is an essential process for maintaining both ecosystem function and biological diversity in fire dependent ecosystems, such as longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.). In these frequently burned fire-dependent ecosystems, fire frequency is positively correlated with high species diversity. The removal of fire from the landscape initiates a shifting ecosystem trajectory where fire-adapted species are replaced by other species assemblages, yielding an alternative stable state.Patterns of biodiversity and the mechanisms driving them must be thoroughly understood to guide an effective monitoring and resource management programs. I describe cross-scale spatial and temporal patterns of plant and arthropod diversity, identification of the grain size and sampling effort to maximize efficiency in monitoring diversity, fine-scale examination of the role of fire in driving patterns of diversity, and mechanisms linking fire, biological diversity, and forest structure. Understanding these links mechanistically is critical for both guiding management now and in the future under the novel conditions expected with global change.By sampling arthropod diversity and creating linkages to plant diversity at multiple spatial and temporal scales, I could better understand how both plant and animal communities, as well as their interactions, are organized with respect to presence or absence of fire. My quantification of multiple dimensions of diversity, including taxonomic and functional metrics, reflect the current focus of biodiversity researchers in both basic and applied realms and further provides novel insight into debates about neutrality and correlations between diversity, stability, resiliency, and ecosystem services The interaction diversity measure is particularly important for linking biodiversity to the trillions of dollars of ecosystem services that are provided by natural ecosystems, since those services are all due to a diverse mix of ecological interactions. Taken together, these metrics of diversity can act as more sensitive indicators of how ecological communities respond to management activities, disturbances, or global change parameters.