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Livestock as vectors of organic matter and nutrient loading in aquatic ecosystems in African savannas


Masese, Frank; Iteba, Jacob; Singer, Gabriel; Hein, Thomas (2021), Livestock as vectors of organic matter and nutrient loading in aquatic ecosystems in African savannas, Dryad, Dataset,


Populations of large wildlife have declined in many landscapes around the world, and have been replaced or displaced by livestock. The consequences of these changes on the transfer of organic matter (OM) and nutrients from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems are not well understood. We used behavioural data, excretion and egestion rates and C: N: P stoichiometry of dung and urine of zebu cattle, to develop a metabolism-based estimate of loading rates of OM (dung), C, N and P into the Mara River, Kenya. We also directly measured the deposition of OM and urine by cattle into the river during watering. Per head, zebu cattle excrete and/or egest 25.6 g dry matter (DM, 99.6 g wet mass; metabolism) - 27.7 g DM (direct input) of OM, 16.0-21.8 g C, 5.9-9.6 g N, and 0.3-0.5 g P per day into the river. To replace loading rates OM of an individual hippopotamus by cattle, around 100 individuals will be needed, but much less for different elements. In parts of the investigated sub-catchments loading rates by cattle were equivalent to or higher than that of the hippopotamus. Changing these patterns of OM and nutrients transport and cycling are having significant effects on the structure and functioning of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.


The data was collected by monitoring and observing animal behaviour in streams and rivers. Insitu physico-chemical and nutrient parameters were also determined at livestock watering points. Samples from field sampling were also analyzed in the laboratory.


International Foundation for Science, Award: A/5810-1

Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung