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Human-induced changes in densities of large herbivorous mammals : consequences for the decomposer subsystem.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>04/2004
<mark>Journal</mark>Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number3
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)145-153
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Work on the impacts of herbivores on ecosystems has traditionally focused on aboveground effects, but a growing number of ecologists are beginning to consider how herbivores affect belowground organisms and processes. Human activity has caused considerable changes in densities of mammalian herbivores throughout the world, through the introduction of herbivores to new regions, the creation of conditions that promote high herbivore densities, and the reduction of their population sizes, sometimes to the point of extinction. These human influences on high mammal densities can have major effects on the decomposer subsystem. Whether these effects are positive or negative depends on the mechanisms involved: for example, whether the changes are in the quantity or quality of the decomposers' resources or in the pathway of vegetation succession. In turn, these belowground effects may influence aboveground biota by altering the supply of available nutrients from the soil. Changes in large mammal densities through human activity may represent an important, though frequently underappreciated, element of global change.