Nutrient and moisture transfer to insect consumers and soil during vertebrate decomposition

Barton, P. S., Strong, C., Evans, M. J., Higgins, A. and Quaggiotto, M.-M. (2019) Nutrient and moisture transfer to insect consumers and soil during vertebrate decomposition. Food Webs, 18, e00110. (doi: 10.1016/j.fooweb.2018.e00110)

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Decomposition of organic matter leads to the redistribution of nutrients to organisms and the environment. Yet knowledge of this process has focused largely on plant-derived organic matter, with little known about relative quantities of nutrients and moisture transferred from decomposing animal remains to insect consumers and soil. We used a replicated and spatially blocked experiment to quantify the moisture, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous content of rabbit carcasses, maggot consumers, and soil over 20 days of decomposition. We found that maggot biomass reached 22% of the fresh rabbit carcass, or 39% of the consumable soft tissues. Maggots were comprised of 68% moisture, and their dry mass was comprised of 25% carbon, 4.9% nitrogen, and 0.8% phosphorous. Soils accumulated approximately 12.9% of the total carcass moisture, but only 0.7% of the carcass dry mass. The largest quantity of carcass mass loss was attributable to evaporation of moisture to the atmosphere (45%). Approximately 9% of the initial carcass mass was left as unconsumed remains. Our study provides estimates of the quantities of nutrients moving from vertebrate carcasses to insect consumers and soil. This knowledge is critical to scaling up the effects of carcasses and to developing our understanding of their role in biogeochemical cycling in ecosystems.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:PSB was funded by the Australian Research Council (DE150100026). MMQ was funded by a travel grant from the British Society for Soil Science.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Quaggiotto, Dr Maria Martina
Authors: Barton, P. S., Strong, C., Evans, M. J., Higgins, A., and Quaggiotto, M.-M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Food Webs
ISSN (Online):2352-2496
Published Online:07 December 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc.
First Published:First published in Food Webs 18: e00110
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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