Professor Yale School of the Environment New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Nutrients and organisms move over landscapes, connecting ecosystems across space and time. To date, biogeochemical research has primarily focused on abiotic flows— however, recent work has indicated large animals transport nutrients in the form of excreta, egesta, and their own bodies. Yet while we know animal subsides can be important mediators of ecosystem function, better integration of tools is needed to develop predictive insights into their roles and impacts on diverse ecosystems. To address this, we have created a methodological roadmap routed in meta-ecosystem theory, a framework ideal for zoogeochemical studies due to its explicit integration of abiotic and biotic components. We present a 5-step guide that demonstrates how to integrate novel and established tools of Animal Ecology, Ecosystem Ecology, Community Ecology, and Biogeochemistry to identify and quantify the nutrients that animals transport. We also provide case studies demonstrating the roadmap in action. Understanding the mechanisms by which animals shape ecosystems is important for conservation, rewilding, and restoration initiatives, and our roadmap equips ecologists with the tools needed to assess the impacts of animals on the move.