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Key role in ecosystem functioning of scavengers reliant on a single common species.

Inger R, Per E, Cox DT, Gaston KJ - Sci Rep (2016)

Bottom Line: The importance of species richness in maintaining ecosystem function in the field remains unclear.Recent studies however have suggested that in some systems functionality is maintained by a few abundant species.We find that, unlike those within largely unaltered environments, the scavenger community within our highly altered system is dominated by a single species, the Carrion crow, despite the presence of a number of other scavenging species.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, U.K.

ABSTRACT
The importance of species richness in maintaining ecosystem function in the field remains unclear. Recent studies however have suggested that in some systems functionality is maintained by a few abundant species. Here we determine this relationship by quantifying the species responsible for a key ecosystem role, carcass removal by scavengers. We find that, unlike those within largely unaltered environments, the scavenger community within our highly altered system is dominated by a single species, the Carrion crow, despite the presence of a number of other scavenging species. Furthermore, we find no relationship between abundance of crows and carcass removal. However, the overall activity of crows predicts carcass biomass removal rate in an asymptotic manner, suggesting that a relatively low level of abundance and scavenging activity is required to maintain this component of ecosystem function.

No MeSH data available.


Relationship between crow activity and change in carcass biomass (Zero = no change in the carcass biomass during the course of the experiment).Black solid line is the fit from the Michaelis-Menten asymptotic model (RMSE = 74.4), blue dotted line is the fit from the exponential model (RMSE = 80.0, R2 = 0.49).
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f2: Relationship between crow activity and change in carcass biomass (Zero = no change in the carcass biomass during the course of the experiment).Black solid line is the fit from the Michaelis-Menten asymptotic model (RMSE = 74.4), blue dotted line is the fit from the exponential model (RMSE = 80.0, R2 = 0.49).

Mentions: There was no significant relationship between abundance of crows and carcass biomass loss. There was however a positive relationship between crow activity around the carcasses and carcass biomass loss. All of the models were significant (p < 0.001) although the asymptotic model had the lowest RMSE (asymptotic = 74.4, exponential = 80.0, GAM = 82.1, polynomial = 95.5, linear = 101.1, Fig. 2). Currently it is not possible to calculate reliable coefficients of variation (R2) for non-linear models17 but the best fitting model for which value could be calculated, the exponential model, had a R2 of 0.49.


Key role in ecosystem functioning of scavengers reliant on a single common species.

Inger R, Per E, Cox DT, Gaston KJ - Sci Rep (2016)

Relationship between crow activity and change in carcass biomass (Zero = no change in the carcass biomass during the course of the experiment).Black solid line is the fit from the Michaelis-Menten asymptotic model (RMSE = 74.4), blue dotted line is the fit from the exponential model (RMSE = 80.0, R2 = 0.49).
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4940730&req=5

f2: Relationship between crow activity and change in carcass biomass (Zero = no change in the carcass biomass during the course of the experiment).Black solid line is the fit from the Michaelis-Menten asymptotic model (RMSE = 74.4), blue dotted line is the fit from the exponential model (RMSE = 80.0, R2 = 0.49).
Mentions: There was no significant relationship between abundance of crows and carcass biomass loss. There was however a positive relationship between crow activity around the carcasses and carcass biomass loss. All of the models were significant (p < 0.001) although the asymptotic model had the lowest RMSE (asymptotic = 74.4, exponential = 80.0, GAM = 82.1, polynomial = 95.5, linear = 101.1, Fig. 2). Currently it is not possible to calculate reliable coefficients of variation (R2) for non-linear models17 but the best fitting model for which value could be calculated, the exponential model, had a R2 of 0.49.

Bottom Line: The importance of species richness in maintaining ecosystem function in the field remains unclear.Recent studies however have suggested that in some systems functionality is maintained by a few abundant species.We find that, unlike those within largely unaltered environments, the scavenger community within our highly altered system is dominated by a single species, the Carrion crow, despite the presence of a number of other scavenging species.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, U.K.

ABSTRACT
The importance of species richness in maintaining ecosystem function in the field remains unclear. Recent studies however have suggested that in some systems functionality is maintained by a few abundant species. Here we determine this relationship by quantifying the species responsible for a key ecosystem role, carcass removal by scavengers. We find that, unlike those within largely unaltered environments, the scavenger community within our highly altered system is dominated by a single species, the Carrion crow, despite the presence of a number of other scavenging species. Furthermore, we find no relationship between abundance of crows and carcass removal. However, the overall activity of crows predicts carcass biomass removal rate in an asymptotic manner, suggesting that a relatively low level of abundance and scavenging activity is required to maintain this component of ecosystem function.

No MeSH data available.