Key role in ecosystem functioning of scavengers reliant on a single common species.
Nature Publishing Group
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
The importance of species richness in maintaining ecosystem function in the field remains unclear. Recent studies however have suggested that in some systems functionality is maintained by a few abundant species. Here we determine this relationship by quantifying the species responsible for a key ecosystem role, carcass removal by scavengers. We find that, unlike those within largely unaltered environments, the scavenger community within our highly altered system is dominated by a single species, the Carrion crow, despite the presence of a number of other scavenging species. Furthermore, we find no relationship between abundance of crows and carcass removal. However, the overall activity of crows predicts carcass biomass removal rate in an asymptotic manner, suggesting that a relatively low level of abundance and scavenging activity is required to maintain this component of ecosystem function.
We thank Deborah & Marin Barlow, Pamela & John Parker & Kim & Justin Dodge, Celia & Paul Tuckfield, Robbie McDonald & Caroline Keenan, Pencoose and Trerose farms for access to their land. E.P. was funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey. D.T.C.C. and K.J.G. were funded by NERC grant NE/J015237/1.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Nature Publishing Group via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 6, Art. No. 29641
Place of publication