[Copyright line has been changed on 21 March 2014, after first online publication.]
The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity
Article first published online: 25 NOV 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and CNRS.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Volume 17, Issue 2, pages 144–154, February 2014
How to Cite
Ecology Letters (2014) 17 144–154
- Issue published online: 2 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 25 NOV 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 24 SEP 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 21 AUG 2013
- Manuscript Received: 18 JUL 2013
- UK Natural Environment Research Council. Grant Number: NE/C510667/1
- National Geographic Society
- Swiss Association of Friends of the Galápagos Islands
- Climate Change Consortium of Wales
- Coprophilous fungi;
- ecosystem engineer;
- Galápagos Islands;
- giant tortoise;
- megafaunal extinction;
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.