Mammalian herbivores in Australia transport nutrients from terrestrial to marine ecosystems via mangroves

Reef, Ruth, Feller, Ilka C. and Lovelock, Catherine E. (2014) Mammalian herbivores in Australia transport nutrients from terrestrial to marine ecosystems via mangroves. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 30 3: 179-188. doi:10.1017/S0266467414000054

Author Reef, Ruth
Feller, Ilka C.
Lovelock, Catherine E.
Title Mammalian herbivores in Australia transport nutrients from terrestrial to marine ecosystems via mangroves
Journal name Journal of Tropical Ecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0266-4674
Publication date 2014-05-01
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1017/S0266467414000054
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 30
Issue 3
Start page 179
End page 188
Total pages 10
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Nutrient subsidies from one ecosystem to another serve a critical link among ecosystems. The transfer of materials across the terrestrial-to-marine boundary is considered to be driven by hydrological connectivity, but animal movement can provide another pathway for nutrient transfers. In two separate studies we assessed the role mammals (bats and kangaroos) play in alleviating nutrient limitation in mangrove forests in Australia. At Lizard Island, we measured tree growth and foliar elemental and isotopic composition of trees growing within and outside a large flying fox roost. In Western Australia, we measured foliar elemental and isotopic composition of trees within two forests frequented by kangaroos that feed in spinifex grasslands and shelter in the shade of the mangroves. We compared those with mangroves from adjacent forests that are not frequented by kangaroos. We show that at both locations, the mangrove forest receives terrestrial nutrient subsidies through animal movement. At Lizard Island dominant mangrove species were significantly enriched in nitrogen within the bat roost, as evidenced by higher foliar N concentrations (by up to 150%), N:P and N:C ratios in trees within the roost compared with trees outside the roost. The isotopic signature of foliar N was significantly enriched in 15N by 1–3‰ within the roost, further suggesting that the source of the N enrichment was the bat roost. Growth rates of mangroves within the roost were nearly six times higher than trees outside the roost. In the arid coast of Western Australia, we show elevated foliar 15N abundance of up to 3‰ in mangroves where kangaroos shelter relative to trees where they do not. Thus, this study presents two examples for mammalian herbivore mediated localized transport of nutrients from terrestrial to marine ecosystems, consequently affecting mangrove tree growth, productivity and forest structure.
Keyword Elemental composition
Flying fox
Macropus spp
Nutrient subsidy
Pteropus sp
Stable isotopes
Tree growth
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Grant ID DP0774491
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 7 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Fri, 16 May 2014, 03:48:31 EST by Professor Catherine Lovelock on behalf of School of Biological Sciences