The land snail faunas from 72 upland and lowland grassland sites from central North America were analyzed. Sixteen of these had been exposed to fire management within the last 15 years, while the remainder had not. A total of 91,074 individuals in 72 different species were observed. Richness was reduced by approximately 30% on burned sites, while abundance was reduced by 50-90%. One-way ANOVA of all sites (using management type as the independent variable), a full 2-way ANOVA (using management and grassland type) of all sites, and a 2-way ANOVA limited to 26 sites paired according to their habitat type and geographic location, demonstrated in all cases a highly significant (up to p < 0.0005) reduction in richness and abundance on fire managed sites. Contingency table analysis of individual species demonstrated that 44% experienced a significant reduction in abundance on fire-managed sites. Only six species positively responded to fire. Comparisons of fire response to the general ecological preferences of these species demonstrated that fully 72% of turf-specialists were negatively impacted by fire, while 67% of duff-specialists demonstrated no significant response. These differences were highly significant (p = 0.0006). Thus, frequent use of fire management represents a significant threat to the health and diversity of North American grassland land snail communities. Protecting this fauna will require the preservation of site organic litter layers, which will require the increase of fire return intervals to 15+ years in conjunction with use of more diversified methods to remove woody and invasive plants.
Land snail, Biodiversity, Conservation, Fire management, Grassland, North America
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