Hurricane Harvey hits the prairie: how are grassland insect communities affected by a hurricane?
Although hurricanes are pervasive disturbances along the Gulf Coast, we know little about how they affect the organisms living in rare coastal tallgrass prairie ecosystems. We especially know little about how they affect organisms other than plants, especially insect communities that are crucial to prairie functioning. Hurricanes cause flooding and deposit lots of marine-derived nutrients; both of these effects could greatly affect insect composition. We predicted that insect communities would have greater effects on litter insects than aboveground insect communities, and that overall insect abundance would be lower after a hurricane. We sampled insects in the litter by pitfall traps and aboveground vegetation by sweep-netting both before (litter=1 year pre-hurricane and aboveground vegetation=2 years pre-hurricane) and after Hurricane Harvey that hit our field site in 2017. We found that insect abundance was lower in the litter and aboveground after the hurricane, and that the composition of insects in the litter and aboveground was very different after the hurricane hit. We hope to test in the future whether effects on insects are driven by flooding versus the deposition of marine-derived nutrients. As hurricanes are predicted to grow in intensity and frequency, the results of this experiment are very important in managing insect communities in these rare ecosystems.
Kathleen A Kargl, Chelse M Prather
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium poster
"Hurricane Harvey hits the prairie: how are grassland insect communities affected by a hurricane?" (2019). Stander Symposium Posters. 1618.