+ Site Statistics
+ Search Articles
+ Subscribe to Site Feeds
EurekaMag Most Shared ContentMost Shared
EurekaMag PDF Full Text ContentPDF Full Text
+ PDF Full Text
Request PDF Full TextRequest PDF Full Text
+ Follow Us
Follow on FacebookFollow on Facebook
Follow on TwitterFollow on Twitter
Follow on Google+Follow on Google+
Follow on LinkedInFollow on LinkedIn

+ Translate

Modification of ecosystems by ungulates

Modification of ecosystems by ungulates

Journal of Wildlife Management 60(4): 695-713

Ecosystem ecologists traditionally have focused their attention on direct interactions among species, particularly those interactions that control flows of energy and materials among trophic levels. Emerging evidence suggests that indirect interactions may be more important than direct ones in determining ecosystem patterns and processes. Here I review indirect effects of ungulates on nutrient cycling, net primary production, and disturbance regimes in terrestrial ecosystems. Ungulates influence the nitrogen (N) cycle by changing litter quality, thereby affecting conditions for N mineralization, and by adding readily available N to upper levels of the soil in urine and feces. As a result of these additions, natural heterogeneity in the spatial distribution of N within landscapes is amplified by ungulate selection of habitats and patches. The magnitude of returns of plant N to the soil in urine and feces is a function of animal body mass and characteristics of the diet, particularly N content and levels of tannin. Effects on N cycling can cascade throughout the ecosystem, and can stabilize or destabilize the composition of plant communities. Net primary production can increase or decline in response to ungulate grazing. The direction of this response depends on the intensity of grazing or browsing, the evolutionary history of the ecosystem, and the opportunity for regrowth. Opportunity for regrowth is determined by physiological and morphological characteristics of the plant as well as environmental conditions, particularly the extent and timing of moisture availability. Ungulates influence fire regimes by altering the quality and quantity of fuels available for combustion. In grasslands, ungulates often reduce the extent, frequency, and intensity of fires, while in shrublands and forests, their effects can increase the likelihood of crown fires, while reducing the likelihood of surface fires. I develop the case that the way that ungulates influence ecosystem process is contingent on historical context, in particular the long-term context provided by plant-animal coevolution and soil development and the short-term context created by climate and weather. I show that ungulates are important agents of change in ecosystems, acting to create spatial heterogeneity, modulate successional processes, and control the switching of ecosystems between alternative states.

(PDF same-day service: $19.90)

Accession: 002897554

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

DOI: 10.2307/3802368

Related references

Impact of ungulates on forest ecosystems. 2008

Ungulates in temperate forest ecosystems. Forest Ecology & Management 88(1-2): 1-5, 1996

Influence of ungulates on forest ecosystems in Moravia. Lesnictvi Forestry 44(6): 278-287, 1998

Forest ecosystems without carnivores: when ungulates rule the world. Unknown, 2005

Special issue: ungulates in temperate forest ecosystems. Forest Ecology and Management 88(1/2): 1-214, 1996

On the carrying capacity for large ungulates of African savanna ecosystems. Proceedings. Biological Sciences 256(1345): 77-82, 1994

Participation of wild ungulates in the decomposition of vegetation in forest-steppe ecosystems. Soviet Journal of Ecology 1984; 14(6): 344-347, 1983

Ungulates in temperate forest ecosystems: perspectives and recommendations for future research. Forest Ecology and Management. 1 November; 881-2: 205-214 (Special Issue), 1996

Historical ecology of wild and domestic ungulates history of pasturable ecosystems. Unknown, 1992

Role of wild ungulates in the decomposition of vegetation in forest steppe ecosystems. Ekologiya (Moscow) (6): 51-55, 1983

Ungulates in temperate forest ecosystems - topic of international conference in the Netherlands. Sylwan 139(12): 97-105, 1995

Interrelationship between ungulates and plant communities in alpine ecosystems of the western caucasus. Ekologiya (Moscow) (3): 10-16, 1991

Interrelation of ungulates and plant communities in alpine ecosystems of western Caucasus. Soviet Journal of Ecology 1992; 22(3): 139-144, 1991

Large carnivores and ungulates in European temperate forest ecosystems: bottom-up and top-down control. 2005