Tropical zoogeochemistry: alchemists of the wild [OFS-4]

Nacho Villar, Netherlands Institute of Ecology NIOO-KNAW (Primary Presenter)
Elizabeth le Roux, Aarhus University, Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE)

We will discuss, how large vertebrates, as a sort of “wild alchemists”, redistribute and mobilize nutrients across and beyond the boundaries of ecosystems, turning dung into gold & engineering landscapes in ways well beyond we can possibly imagine.

Imagine thousands of wildebeest crossing the Mara river in their migration to more fertile grasslands, the thousands of carcasses left at the river by the ones who could not make it and the nutrient input caused by this process. Think about the hippos that subsidize this very river with their excreta, and their impact downstream. The rhinos and giraffes, zebras and gazelles, browsing and grazing and differentially defecating in different savannah habitats depending on their daily routines and the landscape of fear and disgust. Travel to heart of the jungle, and think about the large herds of peccaries and the tapirs voraciously seeking for fallen fruits, and the trampled and defecated trail left behind.

The above are a few intuitive examples of how large tropical vertebrates can modify habitats and ecosystems through the movement and mobilization of nutrients. Whilst classical ecology has devoted a great deal of attention to trophic interactions (e.g. trophic cascades including antagonistic & agonistic interactions), an important, yet largely unexplored, subject is how ecosystem and landscape engineering results from the movement and mobilization of nutrients within ecosystems and across ecosystem boundaries by large vertebrates. Such processes, operating simultaneously at different spatiotemporal scales, modify ecosystem function and services, and might strongly affect geochemical cycles and climate change, though much of these effects have been neglected in the absence of a comprehensive body of evidence.

In this exciting session young emerging leaders in zoogeochemistry will showcase comprehensive studies from different tropical systems (savannahs, land-water interface & tropical forests), aiming to stimulate the audience to think “out of the box” and spark interest on the understudied subject of tropical zoogeochemistry. We will do so with an interactive and “funky” session, in which the audience will learn, think and have loads of fun.

Open-Format Session

Tropical zoogeochemistry: alchemists of the wild [OFS-4]