From Wolves to Worms to Microbes: Multi-trophic Level Interactions

Location

D34055

Start Date

3-31-2023 10:30 AM

End Date

3-31-2023 11:30 AM

Abstract

Wolves are both a keystone species and apex predator. The effects of these predators can cascade to lower trophic levels. Wolves have been found to alter foraging behavior of elk, in turn changing vegetation structure, and subsequently bird communities. Here we examine spatial variations in wolf abundance and supplemental food on the distribution of white-tailed deer. This work was done in the northern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, near the shores of Lake Superior. Over wintering deer populations are more than 10 times greater at a low wolf, high food availability site than a control site. These deer develop extensive trail systems, accompanied by long, linear fecal piles averaging 8 cm deep. These feces in turn change soil structure and worm populations. Immediately under the fecal piles, both worm densities and biomass were significantly greater than 2 meters away. Worms in the in the wolf, non-food supplemented area were almost non-existent. Soil moisture in this area was significantly lower than by the deer trails. Earth worms use areas with high soil moisture that is enhanced by the deer feces.

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Mar 31st, 10:30 AM Mar 31st, 11:30 AM

From Wolves to Worms to Microbes: Multi-trophic Level Interactions

D34055

Wolves are both a keystone species and apex predator. The effects of these predators can cascade to lower trophic levels. Wolves have been found to alter foraging behavior of elk, in turn changing vegetation structure, and subsequently bird communities. Here we examine spatial variations in wolf abundance and supplemental food on the distribution of white-tailed deer. This work was done in the northern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, near the shores of Lake Superior. Over wintering deer populations are more than 10 times greater at a low wolf, high food availability site than a control site. These deer develop extensive trail systems, accompanied by long, linear fecal piles averaging 8 cm deep. These feces in turn change soil structure and worm populations. Immediately under the fecal piles, both worm densities and biomass were significantly greater than 2 meters away. Worms in the in the wolf, non-food supplemented area were almost non-existent. Soil moisture in this area was significantly lower than by the deer trails. Earth worms use areas with high soil moisture that is enhanced by the deer feces.