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Herbivorous Mammals along a Montane Sere: Community Structure and Energetics

Douglas C. Andersen, James A. MacMahon, Michael L. Wolfe
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1379843 500-519 First published online: 20 August 1980


All common herbivorous mammals were censused along a successional gradient in northern Utah in order to assess some of the changes in ecosystem attributes predicted to occur by Odum (1969). Biomass (B) and energy flow [Production (P), Respiration (R), and P + R (e)] through each of nine species in each of four serai stages (montane meadow, Populus-dominated forest, Abies-dominated forest, and Picea-dominated forest) were estimated. Tests of eight predicted trends were supportive in five cases (P/R ratio, P/B ratio, B/e ratio, net community production, and species richness), inconsistent in two cases (total organic matter and species evenness/general diversity) and ambiguous in one (size of organism). Community stability, as measured by changes in average community biomass between years of relatively normal and extremely low precipitation, increased with ecosystem maturity. Individual species, however, fluctuated greatly in biomass between the 2 years. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that mammals are determinants of successional patterns only insofar as they affect plant colonization. However, a continuum probably exists between completely passive species and those that strongly influence successional patterns in plant communities through their effects on plant recruitment and/or mortality. Changes in the plant community in turn affect the composition of the herbivorous mammal community.

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