Large herbivores influence ecosystem functioning via their effects on vegetation at different spatial scales. It is often overlooked that the spatial distribution of large herbivores result from their responses to interacting top-down and bottom-up ecological gradients that create landscape-scale variation in the structure of the entire community. We studied the complexity of these cascading interactions using high-resolution camera trapping and remote sensing data in the best-preserved European lowland forest, Białowieża Forest, Poland. We showed that the variation in spatial distribution of an entire community of large herbivores is explained by species-specific responses to both environmental bottom-up and biotic top-down factors in combination with human-induced (cascading) effects. We decomposed the spatial variation in herbivore community structure and identified functionally distinct landscape-scale herbivory regimes ('herbiscapes') which are predicted to occur in a variety of ecosystems and could be an important mechanism creating spatial variation in herbivory maintaining vegetation heterogeneity.
- Jakub Witold Bubnicki
- Dries PJ Kuijper
- Krzysztof Schmidt
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Christian Rutz, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom
- Received: January 7, 2019
- Accepted: September 13, 2019
- Accepted Manuscript published: October 2, 2019 (version 1)
© 2019, Bubnicki et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.