Partitioning the effects of an ecosystem engineer: kangaroo rats control community structure via multiple pathways
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society
Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume 81, Issue 3, pages 667–678, May 2012
How to Cite
Prugh, L. R. and Brashares, J. S. (2012), Partitioning the effects of an ecosystem engineer: kangaroo rats control community structure via multiple pathways. Journal of Animal Ecology, 81: 667–678. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2011.01930.x
- Issue published online: 10 APR 2012
- Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011
- Received 15 December 2010; accepted 6 October 2011 Handling Editor: Tom Webb
- community structure;
- ecosystem engineer;
- food web;
- habitat modification;
- indirect effects;
- keystone species;
- trophic effects
1. Ecosystem engineers impact communities by altering habitat conditions, but they can also have strong effects through consumptive, competitive and other non-engineering pathways.
2. Engineering effects can lead to fundamentally different community dynamics than non-engineering effects, but the relative strengths of these interactions are seldom quantified.
3. We combined structural equation modelling and exclosure experiments to partition the effects of a keystone engineer, the giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens), on plants, invertebrates and vertebrates in a semi-arid California grassland.
4. We separated the effects of burrow creation from kangaroo rat density and found that kangaroo rats increased the diversity and abundance of other species via both engineering and non-engineering pathways.
5. Engineering was the primary factor structuring plant and small mammal communities, whereas non-engineering effects structured invertebrate communities and increased lizard abundance.
6. These results highlight the importance of the non-engineering effects of ecosystem engineers and shed new light on the multiple pathways by which strong-interactors shape communities.