A wolf in fox's clothing? Using stable isotopes to quantify ecological replacement

Clark, T.J., Vick, B., Newton, J. , Marengo, I. and Wakefield, E. D. (2021) A wolf in fox's clothing? Using stable isotopes to quantify ecological replacement. Conservation Letters, 14(3), e12791. (doi: 10.1111/conl.12791) (PMID:31417629) (PMCID:PMC6691230)

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Ecological replacement as a conservation tool presupposes that nonnative taxa can restore degraded ecosystems by performing the ecological functions of extinct taxa. This assumption is rarely tested however, largely because it is difficult to quantify the functions of species extirpated long ago. Here, we test whether feral South American grey foxes (SAGF), introduced to the Falkland Islands ∼90 years ago, act as unintended ecological replacements for endemic Falkland Islands wolves (FIW), extirpated during the 19th century. Using hair stable isotope ratios as proxies for diet, we show that the isotopic niche space of modern SAGFs almost completely encompasses that of archaic FIWs. However, the former's niche is larger so while SAGFs may play similar ecological roles to FIWs, they probably perform additional functions, which may or may not be desirable. In so doing, we illustrate a generalized framework for using comparative isotopic niche analysis to test for ecological replacement objectively.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (grant 366280 to TJC), UK Natural Environmental Research Council (grant NE/M017990/1 to EW), NERC Life Sciences Facility (grant EK31-11/18 to JN for stable isotope analysis), and Falkland Islands Government (grant 49/2018).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Newton, Dr Jason and Wakefield, Dr Ewan
Authors: Clark, T.J., Vick, B., Newton, J., Marengo, I., and Wakefield, E. D.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Conservation Letters
ISSN (Online):1755-263X
Published Online:04 February 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Authors
First Published:First published in Conservation Letters 14(3): e12791
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
171561Seabirds and wind - the consequences of extreme prey taxis in a changing climateEwan WakefieldNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/M017990/1Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine