Danse Macabre: The Role of Migrations and Mortality in Shaping Our Planet
Monday, August 10, 2015: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
329, Baltimore Convention Center
Amanda L. Subalusky, Yale University
Joseph K. Bump, Michigan Technological University; and
Colden V. Baxter, Idaho State University
David M. Post, Yale University
Animals can play an important role in the distribution of resources across, or concentration within, ecosystems. When animals die, or are killed and partially consumed, their carcasses can provide a significant source of energy and materials (e.g., nutrients) that can have strong effects on the surrounding ecosystem. Numerous carcass inputs often accompany animal migrations associated with reproductive events or shifts in life history stage, and these mass inputs can alter ecosystem function at large spatial and temporal scales. Moreover, even single carcass inputs, particularly when those carcasses are relatively large, can form biogeochemical hotspots and lead to alterations in the diversity and abundance of species that influence an ecosystem for years to decades. These high quality resources can have disproportionately large effects on trophic structure and secondary production even if they occur in low quantities because they are preferentially selected for by animals.
Animals that engage in migrations of large scale and/or magnitude are among the most endangered on the planet, and as numbers decline and migration pathways are diminished or disappear, there are also losses of pulsed carcass inputs that have historically accompanied these phenomena. In order to understand the ecological costs of these losses (and reciprocally, to characterize the benefits of their conservation or restoration), we must first understand the role they can play in shaping food web structure and ecosystem processes in systems where they still occur. This session will bring together scientists working on animal migrations and carcass inputs that occur across a range of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, to develop a conceptual understanding of the commonalities across animal carcass inputs, their relationship to migration events, and their consequences for communities and ecosystem processes.