Mole rats act as ecosystem engineers within a biodiversity hotspot, the Cape Fynbos

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dc.contributor.author Hagenah, Nicole
dc.contributor.author Bennett, Nigel C., 1961-
dc.date.accessioned 2013-05-27T07:13:34Z
dc.date.available 2014-01-31T00:20:04Z
dc.date.issued 2013-01
dc.description.abstract Through their burrowing and foraging activities, subterranean rodents disturb large amounts of soil. As a result, they may modify physical and chemical soil properties and thus change the productivity, structure and dynamics of plant communities. To date, research on the ecological importance of fossorial mammals has focussed predominantly on subterranean rodents in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Surprisingly, despite the potential of them filling a similar ecological niche, very few studies have focussed on the impacts of mole-rats (Bathyergidae) in Africa. To determine how mole-rats modulate their environment, we examined the soil and vegetation properties of mole-rat-modified habitats in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. We predicted that excavation would result in mound soils having higher nutrient levels, more uniform soil particle profiles and lower compactness compared to undisturbed soils. Furthermore, we expected their digging and foraging activities would change plant species composition and increase plant productivity and diversity. As predicted, we found that soils disturbed by mole-rats had higher nutrient levels and lower compactness compared to undisturbed soils, and an altered plant species composition. However, in contrast to our predictions, mounds had a finer particle size profile, and mole-rat burrowing and foraging lowered the overall aboveground plant biomass. Most importantly, the presence of mole-rats enhanced plant species richness. However, as disturbance increased plant species richness declined. Our findings suggest that in Africa, mole-rats fulfil the same ecological niche as their ecological cognates in other ecosystems and thus ultimately act as ecosystem engineers. en
dc.description.librarian hb2013 en
dc.description.librarian ab2013
dc.description.sponsorship The study was funded through a University of Pretoria post-doctoral fellowship (to NH) and a DST-NRF SARChI Chair of mammal behavioural ecology and physiology (to NCB). en
dc.description.uri http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1469-7998 en
dc.identifier.citation Hagenah, N & Bennett, NC 2013, 'Mole rats act as ecosystem engineers within a biodiversity hotspot, the Cape Fynbos', Journal of Zoology, vol. 289, no. 1, pp. 19-26. en
dc.identifier.issn 0952-8369 (print)
dc.identifier.issn 1469-7998 (online)
dc.identifier.other 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2012.00958.x
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/2263/21548
dc.language.iso en en
dc.publisher Wiley-Blackwell en
dc.rights © 2012 The Authors. Journal of Zoology © 2012 The Zoological Society of London en
dc.subject Cape Floristic Region en
dc.subject Ecosystem engineer en
dc.subject Fossorial Mammals en
dc.subject Soil disturbance en
dc.subject South Africa en
dc.subject Subterranean rodents en
dc.subject.lcsh Bathyergidae en
dc.subject.lcsh Fynbos ecology en
dc.title Mole rats act as ecosystem engineers within a biodiversity hotspot, the Cape Fynbos en
dc.type Postprint Article en


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