Matching Items (2)

Understanding introduced megafauna in the Anthropocene: wild burros as ecosystem engineers in the Sonoran Desert

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Megafauna species worldwide have undergone dramatic declines since the end of the Pleistocene, twelve thousand years ago. In response, there have been numerous calls to increase conservation attention to these

Megafauna species worldwide have undergone dramatic declines since the end of the Pleistocene, twelve thousand years ago. In response, there have been numerous calls to increase conservation attention to these ecologically important species. However, introduced megafauna continue to be treated as pests. This thesis evaluates the extent of this conservation paradox in relation to changing megafauna diversity from the Pleistocene to the Anthropocene and finds that introductions have provided refuge for a substantial number threatened and endangered megafaunal species and has restored generic diversity levels per continent to levels closer to the Pleistocene than the Holocene. Furthermore, this thesis describes a previously unstudied behavior of wild burros (Equus asinus), an introduced megafauna whose pre-domestic ancestors are Critically Endangered. Wild burros dig wells to access groundwater and in doing so substantially increase water availability on several scales, create sites that are visited by numerous species and are comparable to natural water sources in terms of species richness, and provide germination nurseries for important riparian pioneer plant species. My results suggest that relaxing concepts of nativity in an age of extinction will provide new understandings of ecological function and can help focus attention on broader conservation goals.

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  • 2017

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Indirect Effects of Omnivorous Crayfish on Semiarid Stream Macroinvertebrate Communities Mediated by Novel Riparian Vegetation

Description

Novel resource inputs represent an increasingly common phenomenon in ecological systems as global change alters environmental factors and species distributions. In semiarid riparian areas, hydric pioneer tree species are being

Novel resource inputs represent an increasingly common phenomenon in ecological systems as global change alters environmental factors and species distributions. In semiarid riparian areas, hydric pioneer tree species are being replaced by drought-tolerant species as water availability decreases. Additionally, introduced omnivorous crayfish, which feed upon primary producers, allochthonous detritus, and benthic invertebrates, can impact communities at multiple levels through both direct and indirect effects. In arid and semiarid systems of the American Southwest, crayfish may be especially important as detrital processors due to the lack of specialized detritivores. I tested the impact of virile crayfish (Orconectes virilis) on benthic invertebrates and detrital resources across a gradient of riparian vegetation drought-tolerance using field cages with leaf litter bags in the San Pedro River in Southeastern Arizona. Virile crayfish increased breakdown rate of drought-tolerant saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima), but did not impact breakdown of Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii), Gooding's willow (Salix goodingii), or seepwillow (Baccharis salicifolia). The density and composition of the invertebrate community colonizing leaf litter bags were both heavily influenced by litter species but not directly by crayfish presence. As drought-tolerant species become more abundant in riparian zones, their litter will become a larger component of the organic matter budget of desert streams. By increasing breakdown rates of saltcedar, crayfish shift the composition of leaf litter in streams, which in turn may affect the composition and biomass of colonizing invertebrate communities. More research is needed to determine the full extent to which these alterations change community composition over time.

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Date Created
  • 2012