Herbivore effects on nutrient spatial distribution in a coastal dune ecosystem in The Netherlands
Large herbivores have been known to change the structure and species composition of ecosystems. For example, herbivores can alter the nutrient balance and distribution through taking in nutrients in one area and excreting them in a different area. This research will help contribute to knowledge of how the European bison, European rabbit, Konik, roe deer and fallow deer affect nutrient distribution in the Kransvlaak. The Kransvlaak is a fenced off area in the Zuid Kennemerland National Park in The Netherlands. The location of European bison, roe and fallow deer, Konik and European rabbit dung in 18 1 hectare quadrats was mapped and the total amount of faeces in each quadrat weighed. A subsample of the faeces from each species was taken from each dung patch to compare the total nitrogen and carbon content of the dung from each species. A one-way ANOVA was then used to show if there was any variation between the nutrient contents of the four herbivores’ dung. It was found that there was a variation between the nitrogen contents in the faeces of the four species and that there was no variation in the amount of carbon between the four species’ dung. A Bonferroni correction showed that the percentage of nitrogen was different between bison & deer fresh dung, and Konik & deer fresh dung. Maps displaying the location and nutrient contents in each of the herbivores’ faeces were produced using the software tool ArcMap in ArcGIS. They showed that the faeces of bison, Konik and deer was densely distributed around the lake whereas rabbit faeces was distributed sparsely in the northern and southern ends of the park. Overall, bison and Konik contributed the highest amounts of nitrogen and carbon to the Kraansvlak even though their faeces had a lower concentration of nitrogen and carbon compared to deer and rabbit faeces. The significance of these results is that the herbivores influence the spatial distribution of nutrients by defecating in certain areas more than others which may alter the nutrient balance if they graze in different areas.