Large herbivores and aquatic–terrestrial links in southern boreal forests


*Correspondence author. J. K. Bump, E-mail:


  • 1Concurrent measurement of population dynamics and associated spatio-temporal patterns of resource flow across aquatic–terrestrial boundaries are rare, yet necessary to understand the consequences of cross-habitat resource flux. Long-term study of the moose Alces alces (L.) population in Isle Royale National Park (Lake Superior, USA) provides an opportunity to examine the patterns of resource flux from aquatic to terrestrial habitats over ~50 years.
  • 2We analysed the spatio-temporal dynamics of aquatic-derived nitrogen (N) that moose transfer to terrestrial systems by using excretion models, foraging parameters, moose densities, and moose carcass locations (n = 3616) collected from 1958–2005.
  • 3Results suggest that moose transfer significant amounts of aquatic-derived N to terrestrial systems, which likely increases terrestrial N availability in riparian zones. A seasonal increase in terrestrial N availability when moose are foraging on N-rich aquatic macrophytes would contrast with the depression of soil N mineralization previously attributed indirectly to moose.
  • 4Aquatic foraging by moose and moose carcass locations are significantly clustered at multiple scales, indicating that grey wolves Canis lupus (L.) and moose can create concentrated areas of resource transfer due to clustered predation and foraging patterns.
  • 5This study shows that patterns of faunal-mediated resource transfer can depend significantly on predator–prey dynamics, and that large predators in this system influence herbivore-controlled resource transfer between ecosystems. Given the circumpolar extent of moose, they constitute an important, unquantified aquatic–terrestrial resource vector in boreal systems.