Responses of plants and arthropods to burning and disking of riparian habitats

Thomas J. Benson, James J. Dinsmore, William L. Hohman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alteration of Iowa, USA, landscapes for agricultural production has resulted in a loss of >99% of the original prairie and >95% of native wetlands. This conversion has included riparian areas, which, as interfaces between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, are important to many wildlife species. Farm Bill programs have resulted in the reestablishment of millions of hectares of grasslands and wetlands nationwide, including >100,000 ha in riparian areas of the Midwest. We assessed plant and arthropod responses to burning and disking of riparian grasslands in east-central Iowa in 2001 and 2002. Burning altered the plant community by removing litter and standing dead vegetation and had negative effects on several arthropod taxa, including Hemiptera and Lepidoptera. However, we observed no differences in vegetation or arthropods between burned and unburned fields during the second year postburning (P > 0.05). Disking decreased the cover of grasses, litter, and standing dead vegetation and increased plant species richness and the cover of forbs and bare ground (P < 0.05). Arthropod abundance and dry biomass were greater on disked than undisked portions of fields (P < 0.05). Increases in the abundance and biomass of arthropods associated with changes in vegetation structure and composition likely improved habitat quality for a number of breeding bird species. Both burning and disking appear to be effective management options for maintaining or enhancing riparian grasslands for wildlife.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1949-1957
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Arthropods
  • Burning
  • Disking
  • Emergency Wetlands Reserve Program
  • Grassland
  • Iowa
  • Riparian habitats
  • Vegetation management
  • Wetlands Reserve Program

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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