Large herbivores and aquatic-terrestrial links in southern boreal forests

TitleLarge herbivores and aquatic-terrestrial links in southern boreal forests
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsBump JK, Tischler KB, Schrank AJ, Peterson RO, Vucetich JA
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Pagination338 - 345
Date Published03/2009

1. Concurrent measurement of population dynamics and associated spatio-temporal patterns of resource flow across aquatic–terrestrial boundaries are rare, yet necessary to understand the consequences of cross-habitat resource flux. Long-term study of the moose Alces alces (L.) population in Isle Royale National Park (Lake Superior, USA) provides an opportunity to examine the patterns of resource flux from aquatic to terrestrial habitats over ~50 years. 2. We analysed the spatio-temporal dynamics of aquatic-derived nitrogen (N) that moose transfer to terrestrial systems by using excretion models, foraging parameters, moose densities, and moose carcass locations (n = 3616) collected from 1958–2005. 3. Results suggest that moose transfer significant amounts of aquatic-derived N to terrestrial systems, which likely increases terrestrial N availability in riparian zones. A seasonal increase in terrestrial N availability when moose are foraging on N-rich aquatic macrophytes would contrast with the depression of soil N mineralization previously attributed indirectly to moose. 4. Aquatic foraging by moose and moose carcass locations are significantly clustered at multiple scales, indicating that grey wolves Canis lupus (L.) and moose can create concentrated areas of resource transfer due to clustered predation and foraging patterns. 5. This study shows that patterns of faunal-mediated resource transfer can depend significantly on predator–prey dynamics, and that large predators in this system influence herbivore-controlled resource transfer between ecosystems. Given the circumpolar extent of moose, they constitute an important, unquantified aquatic–terrestrial resource vector in boreal systems.