Trophic cascades: Linking ungulates to shrub-dependent birds and butterflies

  • Author / Creator
    Teichman, Kristine J
  • Top predators are known to regulate freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems. However, few studies have demonstrated trophic cascades in productive and biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystems. Elk Island National Park and surrounding protected areas have a wide range in the intensity of use by ungulates (IUU) (2.3 to 53.4 units/km2) due to the functional loss of top predators, management for high ungulate numbers and variable hunting pressure. To evaluate whether high IUU results in a trophic cascade, I examined vegetation characteristics and the abundance of shrub-dependent yellow warblers (Dendroica petechia) and Canadian tiger swallowtails (Papilio canadensis). Areas with high IUU resulted in loss of horizontal shrub cover that resulted in reductions of yellow warblers. Abundance of Canadian tiger swallowtail was related to reductions in larval host plant density, particularly chokecherry (Prunus virginiana). This study provides evidence of a species-level trophic cascade, initiated by a combined effect of the loss of top predators and management for high ungulate densities.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2013
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.