Lyrebirds are important post-fire ecosystem engineers

Maisey, Alex C et al, ‘Foraging by an Avian Ecosystem Engineer Extensively Modifies the Litter and Soil Layer in Forest Ecosystems’ [2020] Ecological applications e02219

Lyrebirds are an unlikely ecosystem “engineer”, but are increasingly being recognised as an important focus for conservation and ecological restoration because their actions affect a range of ecosystem processes and thereby influence how ecosystems function. This study measured the seasonal and spatial patterns of foraging by Lyrebirds and the amount of soil displaced by them in forest ecosystems. There was an experimental approach with three treatments: Lyrebird exclusion, Lyrebird exclusion with simulated foraging, and non‐exclusion reference plots. On average, Lyrebirds displaced 155.7 Mg/ha of litter and soil in a 12‐month period. The enormous extent of litter and soil turned over by the Superb Lyrebird is unparalleled by any other vertebrate soil engineer in terrestrial ecosystems globally.

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