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Glacier Bay National Park mammal and plant community data

Cite this dataset

Sytsma, Mira (2023). Glacier Bay National Park mammal and plant community data [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Disturbance is a key driver of community assembly and patterns of diversity. Whereas successional changes in vegetation have been well studied, post-disturbance successional patterns of wildlife communities remain poorly understood.

2. Here, we investigated the roles of site age and habitat in shaping community assembly and the diversity of terrestrial mammals in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (GBNP), which has undergone the most rapid and extensive deglaciation in the world since the Little Ice Age. Deglaciation has extensively altered the landscape, opening up new habitat for recolonization by plants and animals. 

3. We used camera traps, small mammal trapping and vegetation surveys to investigate the patterns of mammalian succession and beta diversity following deglaciation, using a space-for-time substitution across 10 sites during summers 2017 and 2018. Site age and habitat characteristics were not strongly correlated (r < 0.46), allowing the influences of time since disturbance and habitat changes to be distinguished.

4. PERMANOVA analyses indicated that mammal community assembly was more strongly influenced by site age than habitat, whereas habitat and age had similar effects on beta (between site) diversity. Beta diversity was higher for smaller, less mobile mammals than larger, more mobile mammals and was primarily driven by species turnover among sites, whereas relative turnover was much lower for larger mammals. A comprehensive review of historic distributions of mammals in GBNP supported our findings that species turnover is a driving influence of community assembly for smaller mammals. 

5. Our results indicate that body size of mammals may play an important role in shaping colonization patterns post-disturbance, likely via size-related differences in mobility. Patterns of wildlife community assembly may therefore not track vegetation succession following disturbances if there are barriers to movement or if dispersal ability is limited, highlighting the importance of incorporating landscape connectivity and species traits into wildlife conservation efforts following disturbances. This knowledge may improve predictions of mammalian community assembly following major disturbance events. 


National Park Service