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Changes to the fire regime in boreal Alaska are shifting the ratio of coniferous to deciduous dominance on the landscape. The increase in aspen and birch may have important effects on predatory hymenopteran assemblages by providing a source of extrafloral nectar and increasing prey availability. Furthermore, fire-induced changes in successional age alter habitat structure and microclimate in ways that may favor ants. This study is the first to characterize the influence of fire-related vegetation changes on boreal predatory hymenopteran assemblages. We compare the abundance, species richness, and composition of predatory hymenopteran assemblages among forests at different stages of succession and of varying post-fire tree species compositions. Ant assemblages were weakly related to forest composition, but ants were significantly more abundant and speciose in early-successional forests than in mid-late successional forests. In contrast, macropterous wasp morphospecies richness and abundance, and micropterous wasp abundance, were positively related to the basal area of aspen, but were not related to successional stage. The results suggest that shifts in boreal vegetation related to climate warming will result in changes to the predaceous insect community, with ants responding positively to disturbance and wasps responding positively to an increase in the representation of aspen on the landscape.
Wenninger, A., T. Hollingsworth, and D. Wagner. 2019. Predatory hymenopteran assemblages in boreal Alaska: associations with forest composition and post-fire succession. Écoscience:1-16.