Fertilizing riparian forests: Nutrient repletion across ecotones with trophic rewilding

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Trophic rewilding maintains that large mammals are functionally important to resource subsidies and nutrient repletion, yet this prediction is understudied. Here, I report on the potential magnitude and variability of nitrogen that moose populations move from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems. My aim is to provide justified approximations of the role of moose in the flux of a limiting nutrient across ecotones and to illustrate how this role is linked to wolf predation and climate warming. Using Isle Royale and northeastern Minnesota, USA as contrasting focal systems, I found that the long-term annual N gain for riparian forests likely ranges from 1 to 10 kg N ha-1 yr-1, depending on the heterogeneity of moose movements. For these systems, this range is equivalent to approximately 4-30% of net annual N mineralization, approximately 62-625% of annual N runoff, approximately 28-333% of annual atmospheric N deposition and approximately 31-312% of the N sequestered by trees. TheNflux approximation ismost sensitive to moose population levels and, as such, is influenced bywolves, climatewarming and disease. The potential for other terrestrial ungulates that feed on aquatic plants to provide significant nutrient repletion across ecotones is unknown but important to examine in the context of trophic rewilding. The extent to which predators influence ungulate abundance indirectly impacts this nutrient repletion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20170439
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1761
StatePublished - Dec 5 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society.


  • Boreal
  • Climate change
  • Moose (Alces alces)
  • Resource subsidy
  • Ungulate
  • Wolves (Canis lupus)


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