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The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity

Cynthia Froyd Orcid Logo, Emily E. D. Coffey, Willem O. van der Knaap, Jacqueline F. N. van Leeuwen, Alan Tye, Katherine J. Willis

Ecology Letters, Volume: 17, Issue: 2, Pages: 144 - 154

Swansea University Author: Cynthia Froyd Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1111/ele.12203

Abstract

The giant tortoises of the Galápagos have become greatly depleted since European discovery of the islands in the 16th Century, with populations declining from an estimated 250 000 to between 8000 and 14 000 in the 1970s. Successful tortoise conservation efforts have focused on species recovery, but...

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Published in: Ecology Letters
ISSN: 1461-023X
Published: Wiley 2014
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa16409
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spelling 2020-12-08T15:20:26.1196006 v2 16409 2013-11-28 The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity 788282697fc0b9ce69b76add9267d7b1 0000-0001-5291-9156 Cynthia Froyd Cynthia Froyd true false 2013-11-28 SBI The giant tortoises of the Galápagos have become greatly depleted since European discovery of the islands in the 16th Century, with populations declining from an estimated 250 000 to between 8000 and 14 000 in the 1970s. Successful tortoise conservation efforts have focused on species recovery, but ecosystem conservation and restoration requires a better understanding of the wider ecological consequences of this drastic reduction in the archipelago's only large native herbivore. We report the first evidence from palaeoecological records of coprophilous fungal spores of the formerly more extensive geographical range of giant tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Upland tortoise populations on Santa Cruz declined 500–700 years ago, likely the result of human impact or possible climatic change. Former freshwater wetlands, a now limited habitat-type, were found to have converted to Sphagnum bogs concomitant with tortoise loss, subsequently leading to the decline of several now-rare or extinct plant species. Journal Article Ecology Letters 17 2 144 154 Wiley 1461-023X Coprophilous fungi; ecosystem engineer; Galápagos Islands; giant tortoise; megafaunal extinction; wetlands 1 2 2014 2014-02-01 10.1111/ele.12203 These results identify that, far from being the pristine ecosystems of common perception, the Galapagos Islands, despite their uniquely high rates of native species retention, have experienced significant habitat transformations since human arrival in the archipelago. The Galapagos upland Sphagnum crater bogs were found to be a relatively recent development rather than historic ecosystem components, replacing former (and now exceptionally rare) open water wetland habitats, likely as a consequence of the loss of tortoises from the highlands. This has important conservation implications both for the species and more widely, in terms of ecosystem restoration and conservation. These findings support growing evidence of the extent of the ecological consequences of the extinction of large herbivores globally and identify an aspect that is often not considered the effect of megafaunal loss on specialised wetland habitats and the unique organisms and ecosystem functions they maintained COLLEGE NANME Biosciences COLLEGE CODE SBI Swansea University 2020-12-08T15:20:26.1196006 2013-11-28T12:55:33.7004738 College of Science Geography Cynthia Froyd 0000-0001-5291-9156 1 Emily E. D. Coffey 2 Willem O. van der Knaap 3 Jacqueline F. N. van Leeuwen 4 Alan Tye 5 Katherine J. Willis 6 0016409-16072015133834.pdf Froyd_etal_ECOL_LETT_2014.pdf 2015-07-16T13:38:34.8270000 Output 375629 application/pdf Version of Record true © 2013 The Authors. All article content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License true eng http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
title The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity
spellingShingle The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity
Cynthia, Froyd
title_short The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity
title_full The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity
title_fullStr The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity
title_full_unstemmed The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity
title_sort The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity
author_id_str_mv 788282697fc0b9ce69b76add9267d7b1
author_id_fullname_str_mv 788282697fc0b9ce69b76add9267d7b1_***_Cynthia, Froyd_***_0000-0001-5291-9156
author Cynthia, Froyd
author2 Cynthia Froyd
Emily E. D. Coffey
Willem O. van der Knaap
Jacqueline F. N. van Leeuwen
Alan Tye
Katherine J. Willis
format Journal article
container_title Ecology Letters
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publishDate 2014
institution Swansea University
issn 1461-023X
doi_str_mv 10.1111/ele.12203
publisher Wiley
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description The giant tortoises of the Galápagos have become greatly depleted since European discovery of the islands in the 16th Century, with populations declining from an estimated 250 000 to between 8000 and 14 000 in the 1970s. Successful tortoise conservation efforts have focused on species recovery, but ecosystem conservation and restoration requires a better understanding of the wider ecological consequences of this drastic reduction in the archipelago's only large native herbivore. We report the first evidence from palaeoecological records of coprophilous fungal spores of the formerly more extensive geographical range of giant tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Upland tortoise populations on Santa Cruz declined 500–700 years ago, likely the result of human impact or possible climatic change. Former freshwater wetlands, a now limited habitat-type, were found to have converted to Sphagnum bogs concomitant with tortoise loss, subsequently leading to the decline of several now-rare or extinct plant species.
published_date 2014-02-01T03:32:13Z
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