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Nationwide trophic cascades: changes in avian community structure driven by ungulates

Palmer, Georgina; Stephens, Philip A.; Ward, Alastair I.; Willis, Stephen G.

Authors

Georgina Palmer

Philip A. Stephens

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Dr Alastair Ward A.I.Ward@hull.ac.uk
Head of Department, Biological and Marine Sciences

Stephen G. Willis



Abstract

In recent decades, many ungulate populations have changed dramatically in abundance, resulting in cascading effects across ecosystems. However, studies of such effects are often limited in their spatial and temporal scope. Here, we contrast multi-species composite population trends of deer-sensitive and deer-tolerant woodland birds at a national scale, across Britain. We highlight the divergent fates of these two groups between 1994 and 2011, and show a striking association between the calculated divergence and a composite population trend of woodland deer. Our results demonstrate the link between changes in deer populations and changes in bird communities. In a period when composite population trends for deer increased by 46%, the community population trend across deer-sensitive birds (those dependent on understory vegetation) declined much more than the community trend for deer-tolerant birds. Our findings suggest that ongoing changes in the populations of herbivorous ungulates in many countries worldwide may help explain patterns of community restructuring at other trophic levels. Ungulate impacts on other taxa may require more consideration by conservation practitioners than they currently receive.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2015-12
Journal Scientific Reports
Print ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 1
Article Number 15601
APA6 Citation Palmer, G., Stephens, P. A., Ward, A. I., & Willis, S. G. (2015). Nationwide trophic cascades: changes in avian community structure driven by ungulates. Scientific reports, 5(1), https://doi.org/10.1038/srep15601
DOI https://doi.org/10.1038/srep15601
Keywords Multidisciplinary
Publisher URL https://www.nature.com/articles/srep15601
Additional Information Received: 7 April 2015; Accepted: 24 September 2015; First Online: 26 October 2015; : The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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