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aPods Rule! What Happens to Arthropods Following a Wildland Fire?
This article is from Issue Wildland Fire 2 - Vol. 13 No. 1.
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Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) once could be found from southeastern Virginia to eastern Texas. Longleaf pines are not usually killed by fire. Because these pines need open spaces to survive, fire is a good thing for longleaf pines. Over many years, much of the longleaf pine forests were cut for lumber.
Now, however, many people are concerned about longleaf pine forests. In many areas, these forests are being managed to help them survive and grow. Fire is a necessary part of this process. The scientists in this study were interested in what happens to arthropods after a fire. They developed a hypothesis about the importance of old logs lying on the forest floor to leaf-litter-dwelling arthropods. The scientists thought that after a fire, arthropods living among leaf litter would move to the areas around old logs because they didn’t have other places to hide.
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Before they do a study, scientists sometimes state a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a statement of an observation, usually about the relationship of one thing to another. A hypothesis can provide the basis for a scientific study, in which the observation is examined to determine if it is true or false. Scientists usually state their hypothesis as what is called a null hypothesis. A null hypothesis states that there is no relationship between two or more variables being studied. After they do their study, scientists determine whether the null hypothesis is true or false. If it is false, it means a relationship appears to exist between two or more variables. Think of a time that you observed something about the relationship of two things. For example, if the sky is dark and cloudy, you might think it will rain. What would be the null hypothesis in this case?
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Have you ever turned over an old log in the woods? If you have, you know that many small creatures live in and around these logs. Many of these creatures are arthropods (ˈär-thrə-ˌpädz). Over 80 percent of all known animal species are arthropods, a group that includes insects, spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites, centipedes, and millipedes. In the ocean, arthropods include crabs, shrimps, and lobsters. Scientists have identified over 1,170,000 species of arthropods. Many more will probably be discovered over time. Arthropods provide many ecosystem services to people. These services include pollination, food, decomposition, insect control, and beauty. Can you imagine what would happen if insects didn’t help decompose dead animals and plants? It would be gross! Some arthropods bite or sting if they think people or other animals are trying to hurt them or their nests. For example, bees and scorpions can sting, and sometimes people get sick from some arthropod bites like mosquitoes or tick bites if they are carrying a disease. The scientists in this study investigated one kind of arthropod. This type of arthropod lives among leaf litter on the forest floor. The scientists wanted to discover what happens to arthropods living among leaf litter after a forest fire moves through the area.
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