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Data from: Dominant carnivore loss benefits native avian and invasive mammalian scavengers

Citation

Fielding, Matthew et al. (2022), Data from: Dominant carnivore loss benefits native avian and invasive mammalian scavengers, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.ghx3ffbrf

Abstract

Scavenging by large carnivores is integral for ecosystem functioning by limiting the build-up of carrion and facilitating widespread energy flows. However, top carnivores have declined across the world, triggering trophic shifts within ecosystems. In this study, we use a natural ‘removal experiment’ of disease-driven decline and island extirpation of native mammalian (marsupial) carnivores to investigate top-down control on utilisation of experimentally placed carcasses by two mesoscavengers – the invasive feral cat and native forest raven. Ravens were the main beneficiary of carnivore loss, scavenging for five times longer in the absence of native mammalian carnivores. Cats scavenged on half of all carcasses in the region without dominant native carnivores. This was eight times more than in areas where other carnivores were at high densities. All carcasses persisted longer than the three-week monitoring period in the absence of native mammalian carnivores, while in areas with high carnivore abundance, all carcasses were fully consumed. Our results reveal the efficiency of carrion consumption by mammalian scavengers. These services are not readily replaced by less-efficient facultative scavengers. Overall, our results demonstrate the significance of global carnivore conservation and support management approaches, such as rewilding in areas where the natural suite of carnivores is missing.

Funding

Australian Research Council, Award: FL160100101

Australian Research Council, Award: CE170100015

Australian Research Council, Award: DP110103069

Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment