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  1. Abstract

    The introduction of hippos into the wild in Colombia has been marked by their rapid population growth and widespread dispersal on the landscape, high financial costs of management, and conflicting social perspectives on their management and fate. Here we use population projection models to investigate the effectiveness and cost of management options under consideration for controlling introduced hippos. We estimate there are 91 hippos in the middle Magdalena River basin, Colombia, and the hippo population is growing at an estimated rate of 9.6% per year. At this rate, there will be 230 hippos by 2032 and over 1,000 by 2050. Applying the population control methods currently under consideration will cost at least 1–2 million USD to sufficiently decrease hippo population growth to achieve long-term removal, and depending on the management strategy selected, there may still be hippos on the landscape for 50–100 years. Delaying management actions for a single decade will increase minimum costs by a factor of 2.5, and some methods may become infeasible. Our approach illustrates the trade-offs inherent between cost and effort in managing introduced species, as well as the importance of acting quickly, especially when dealing with species with rapid population growth rates and potential for significant ecological and social impacts.

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  2. Abstract

    All animals carry specialized microbiomes, and their gut microbiota are continuously released into the environment through excretion of waste. Here we propose themeta-gutas a novel conceptual framework that addresses the ability of the gut microbiome released from an animal to function outside the host and alter biogeochemical processes mediated by microbes. We demonstrate this dynamic in the hippopotamus (hippo) and the pools they inhabit. We used natural field gradients and experimental approaches to examine fecal and pool water microbial communities and aquatic biogeochemistry across a range of hippo inputs. Sequencing using 16S RNA methods revealed community coalescence between hippo gut microbiomes and the active microbial communities in hippo pools that received high inputs of hippo feces. The shared microbiome between the hippo gut and the waters into which they excrete constitutes ameta-gutsystem that could influence the biogeochemistry of recipient ecosystems and provide a reservoir of gut microbiomes that could influence other hosts. We propose thatmeta-gutdynamics may also occur where other animal species congregate in high densities, particularly in aquatic environments.

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  3. Abstract

    Animals can impact freshwater ecosystem structure and function in ways that persist well beyond the animal’s active presence. These legacy effects can last for months, even decades, and often increase spatial and temporal heterogeneity within a system. Herein, we review examples of structural, biogeochemical, and trophic legacies from animals in stream and river ecosystems with a focus on large vertebrates. We examine how the decline or disappearance of many native animal populations has led to the loss of their legacy effects. We also demonstrate how anthropogenically altered animal populations, such as livestock and invasive species, provide new legacy effects that may partially replace lost animal legacies. However, these new effects often have important functional differences, including stronger, more widespread and homogenizing effects. Understanding the influence of animal legacy effects is particularly important as native animal populations continue to decline and disappear from many ecosystems, because they illustrate the long-term and often unanticipated consequences of biodiversity loss. We encourage the conservation and restoration of native species to ensure that both animal populations and their legacy effects continue to support the structure and function of river ecosystems.

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  4. Abstract

    Scavengers play an important role in nutrient recycling and disease control, and this role may be particularly critical after mass mortality events, such as those caused by epidemics, culling, or natural disasters. Current work on scavenger ecology has focused on use of single carcasses, but behaviors are likely to be different at mass mortality events, in which high resource abundance can prolong the spatial and temporal availability of carcasses. Little is currently known about how scavengers respond to large die‐offs and understanding scavenger use and succession patterns at mass mortality events has important implications for disease ecology. We used photographic time series and river‐side surveys of scavengers using carcasses to investigate scavenger use and succession on wildebeest carcasses that resulted from annual mass drownings in the Mara River, Kenya. In addition, we used telemetry data for tagged avian scavengers to assess individual use of mass drownings. Density of avian scavengers per carcass was almost two orders of magnitude lower at mass drownings than has been documented previously for single carcasses on land. Scavengers demonstrated patterns of temporal resource partitioning, with large‐bodied avian scavengers more common initially, followed by small‐bodied avian scavengers, and then by insectivorous birds and non‐avian scavengers. Avian scavengers also differed in daily activity patterns, with marabou storks more common in the morning and late afternoon and white‐backed and Rüppell’s vultures more common mid‐day. Telemetry data indicated that approximately half of tagged vultures used mass drowning events but only spent a small proportion of their time there, suggesting that competition still plays an important role in scavenger dynamics at mass mortality events and that the rewards of such abundant resources may be offset by the risk of foraging in the river. Further research on scavenger behavior during mass mortality events is needed to better understand the role of scavengers in decomposition of carcasses and disease control during these events.

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    The transport of resource subsidies by animals has been documented across a range of species and ecosystems. Although many of these studies have shown that animal resource subsidies can have significant effects on nutrient cycling, ecosystem productivity, and food‐web structure, there is a great deal of variability in the occurrence and strength of these effects. Here we propose a conceptual framework for understanding the context dependency of animal resource subsidies, and for developing and testing predictions about the effects of animal subsidies over space and time. We propose a general framework, in which abiotic characteristics and animal vector characteristics from the donor ecosystem interact to determine the quantity, quality, timing, and duration (QQTD) of an animal input. The animal input is translated through the lens of recipient ecosystem characteristics, which include both abiotic and consumer characteristics, to yield the QQTD of the subsidy. The translated subsidy influences recipient ecosystem dynamics through effects on both trophic structure and ecosystem function, which may both influence the recipient ecosystem's response to further inputs and feed back to influence the donor ecosystem. We present a review of research on animal resource subsidies across ecosystem boundaries, placed within the context of this framework, and we discuss how the QQTD of resource subsidies can influence trophic structure and ecosystem function in recipient ecosystems. We explore the importance of understanding context dependency of animal resource subsidies in increasingly altered ecosystems, in which the characteristics of both animal vectors and donor and recipient ecosystems may be changing rapidly. Finally, we make recommendations for future research on animal resource subsidies, and resource subsidies in general, that will increase our understanding and predictive capacity about their ecosystem effects.

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  8. In many regions of the world, populations of large wildlife have been displaced by livestock, and this may change the functioning of aquatic ecosystems owing to significant differences in the quantity and quality of their dung. We developed a model for estimating loading rates of organic matter (dung) by cattle for comparison with estimated rates for hippopotamus in the Mara River, Kenya. We then conducted a replicated mesocosm experiment to measure ecosystem effects of nutrient and carbon inputs associated with dung from livestock (cattle) versus large wildlife (hippopotamus). Our loading model shows that per capita dung input by cattle is lower than for hippos, but total dung inputs by cattle constitute a significant portion of loading from large herbivores owing to the large numbers of cattle on the landscape. Cattle dung transfers higher amounts of limiting nutrients, major ions and dissolved organic carbon to aquatic ecosystems relative to hippo dung, and gross primary production and microbial biomass were higher in cattle dung treatments than in hippo dung treatments. Our results demonstrate that different forms of animal dung may influence aquatic ecosystems in fundamentally different ways when introduced into aquatic ecosystems as a terrestrially derived resource subsidy. 
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