Jones, Holly P.
M.S. (Master of Science)
Department of Biological Sciences
Predators can shape prey communities through consumptive and non-consumptive interactions. By inducing fear of predation, predators can cause changes to prey foraging behavior that can negatively impact prey reproduction and body-condition. Furthermore, both consumptive (density-mediated) and non-consumptive (trait-mediated) predator-prey interactions can cascade down the food web to have indirect impacts of vegetation (trophic cascade). As we continue to lose apex predators and undergo land change, understanding how the new top dogs shape prey communities and restorations is increasingly important. Through utilizing predator-exclosure fences, mark-recapture analysis, plant biomass and stable isotopes we evaluated the role of coyotes as top mesopredator in a restored grassland. Results indicate that coyotes do not have strong impacts on small mammal population dynamics or cause non-consumptive impacts to small mammal reproduction. In addition, they do not induce a trophic cascade in a restored prairie. However, coyotes appear to be having a positive impact on Peromyscus spp. body condition. I also found that coyotes eat C4 grasses in the highest proportion, although I suspect this to be driven by corn and corn product consumption, and that they have both individualistic and seasonal diets. The lack of an impact on prairie communities and a diet comprised largely of C4 grasses indicate that coyotes may not be filling the role of apex predator and exerting strong top-down control in restored prairie communities. However, given the short time frame of my study and small sample sizes I obtained, more research may be necessary to conclusively determine if coyotes function as an apex mesopredator in restored prairie systems.
Savage, Kirstie, "Does excluding a top mesopredator induce a trophic cascade : effects and diet of an omnivorous predator in a restored prairie" (2018). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 2647.
Northern Illinois University
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