Authors: EDUARDO MATEOS, MARTA GOULA, TERESA SAURAS, XAVIER SANTOS
Abstract: Changes in habitat structure are the main driving forces for responses of animal assemblages to fire. According to the disturbance theory, generalist species are expected to outperform specialists in variable environments. Thus, we hypothesized that omnivorous and polyphagous species will become more abundant in unstable postfire successional vegetation, whereas monophagous (specialists), due to their strong dependence on host plants, are expected to respond according to the responses of plant hosts. We compared the responses of true bug (Heteroptera) assemblages in stable (unburnt) versus unstable (postfire successional) environments as this group shows a high diversity of feeding strategies. Redundancy analysis fitted our hypothesis as omnivorous and polyphagous bugs responded positively to fire whereas oligophagous bugs did not. Thus, the most generalized bugs in terms of diet were found in disturbed (burnt) habitats whereas specialized bugs were found in undisturbed (unburnt) habitats. Moreover, the most specialized bugs (monophagous species) responded to fire in accordance to the responses of their specific host plants. Although based on small bipartite networks, the lower modularity in burnt sites corresponded to a scenario of lower segregation of plant resources and fits the higher presence of generalist bugs in these sites. Our results suggest that plant?bug trophic interactions shape the response of Heteroptera to fire, and this response seems to be mediated by the degree of feeding specialization.
Keywords: Bipartite network, multivariate ordination, disturbance theory, fire, species interaction, trophic specialization
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