Disturbance by large herbivores alters the relative importance of the ecological processes that influence the assembly pattern in heterogeneous meta-communities

Authors

  • Haruka Ohashi,

    1. Faculty of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Fuchu, Tokyo, Japan
    Current affiliation:
    1. Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan
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  • Yoshinobu Hoshino

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Fuchu, Tokyo, Japan
    • Correspondence

      Yoshinobu Hoshino, Faculty of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, 3-5-8 Saiwai-cho, Fuchu, Tokyo 183-8509, Japan. Tel/Fax: +81-42-367-5740; E-mail: hoshino@cc.tuat.ac.jp

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Abstract

Disturbance caused by large herbivores can affect the relative importance of ecological processes in determining community assembly and may cause a systematic loss of biodiversity across scales. To examine changes in the community assembly pattern caused by an overabundance of large herbivores in Japan, we analyzed community composition data from before and after the overabundance occurred. The community assembly pattern becomes more random after the deer overabundance. In addition, result of variation partitioning revealed decrease in importance of environmental processes and increase in importance of spatial processes. However, response of turnover rate, niche breadth, and niche overlap was heterogeneous, according to scale of each environmental gradient. Our results emphasize the importance of conserving habitat specialists that represent the local environment (habitat type and topography) at various altitudinal ranges to maintain biodiversity at regional scales under the increasing pressure of large herbivores.

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