Linking spatial patterns of terrestrial herbivore community structure to trophic interactions

  1. Jakub Witold Bubnicki  Is a corresponding author
  2. Marcin Churski
  3. Krzysztof Schmidt
  4. Tom A Diserens
  5. Dries PJ Kuijper
  1. Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland

Abstract

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.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files. The source code of our analyses together with the source data files are avauilable in our github repository: https://github.com/mripasteam/herbiscapes/.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Jakub Witold Bubnicki

    Population Ecology, Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland
    For correspondence
    kbubnicki@ibs.bialowieza.pl
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-2064-3113
  2. Marcin Churski

    Population Ecology, Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Krzysztof Schmidt

    Population Ecology, Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-9043-291X
  4. Tom A Diserens

    Population Ecology, Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Dries PJ Kuijper

    Population Ecology, Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

National Science Center, Poland (2012/07/N/NZ8/02651)

  • Jakub Witold Bubnicki

National Science Center, Poland (2015/17/B/NZ8/02403)

  • Dries PJ Kuijper

EURONATUR (PL-15-500-28)

  • Krzysztof Schmidt

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Christian Rutz, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom

Version history

  1. Received: January 7, 2019
  2. Accepted: September 13, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: October 2, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: October 22, 2019 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record updated: November 19, 2019 (version 3)

Copyright

© 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.

Metrics

  • 3,399
    views
  • 450
    downloads
  • 38
    citations

Views, downloads and citations are aggregated across all versions of this paper published by eLife.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Cite this article (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

  1. Jakub Witold Bubnicki
  2. Marcin Churski
  3. Krzysztof Schmidt
  4. Tom A Diserens
  5. Dries PJ Kuijper
(2019)
Linking spatial patterns of terrestrial herbivore community structure to trophic interactions
eLife 8:e44937.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.44937

Share this article

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.44937

Further reading

    1. Ecology
    Keisuke Atsumi, Yuusuke Nishida ... Shogoro Fujiki
    Research Article

    Comprehensive biodiversity data is crucial for ecosystem protection. The Biome mobile app, launched in Japan, efficiently gathers species observations from the public using species identification algorithms and gamification elements. The app has amassed >6 million observations since 2019. Nonetheless, community-sourced data may exhibit spatial and taxonomic biases. Species distribution models (SDMs) estimate species distribution while accommodating such bias. Here, we investigated the quality of Biome data and its impact on SDM performance. Species identification accuracy exceeds 95% for birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians, but seed plants, molluscs, and fishes scored below 90%. Our SDMs for 132 terrestrial plants and animals across Japan revealed that incorporating Biome data into traditional survey data improved accuracy. For endangered species, traditional survey data required >2000 records for accurate models (Boyce index ≥ 0.9), while blending the two data sources reduced this to around 300. The uniform coverage of urban-natural gradients by Biome data, compared to traditional data biased towards natural areas, may explain this improvement. Combining multiple data sources better estimates species distributions, aiding in protected area designation and ecosystem service assessment. Establishing a platform for accumulating community-sourced distribution data will contribute to conserving and monitoring natural ecosystems.

    1. Ecology
    2. Evolutionary Biology
    Chunxiao Li, Tao Deng ... Shiqi Wang
    Research Article

    The long-trunked elephantids underwent a significant evolutionary stage characterized by an exceptionally elongated mandible. The initial elongation and subsequent regression of the long mandible, along with its co-evolution with the trunk, present an intriguing issue that remains incompletely understood. Through comparative functional and eco-morphological investigations, as well as feeding preference analysis, we reconstructed the feeding behavior of major groups of longirostrine elephantiforms. In the Platybelodon clade, the rapid evolutionary changes observed in the narial region, strongly correlated with mandible and tusk characteristics, suggest a crucial evolutionary transition where feeding function shifted from the mandible to the trunk, allowing proboscideans to expand their niches to more open regions. This functional shift further resulted in elephantids relying solely on their trunks for feeding. Our research provides insights into how unique environmental pressures shape the extreme evolution of organs, particularly in large mammals that developed various peculiar adaptations during the late Cenozoic global cooling trends.