Data from: Quantification of population sizes of large herbivores and their long-term functional role in ecosystems using dung fungal spores

Baker, A. G. (Creator), Cornelissen, P. (Creator), Bhagwat, S. A. (Creator), Vera, F. W. M. (Creator), Willis, K. J. (Creator), University of Groningen, 17-May-2016


  • Ambroise G. Baker (Creator)
  • Perry Cornelissen (Creator)
  • Shonil A. Bhagwat (Creator)
  • Franciscus Wilhelmus Maria Vera (Creator)
  • Katherine J. Willis (Creator)


The relationship between large herbivore numbers and landscape cover over time is poorly understood. There are two schools of thought: one views large herbivores as relatively passive elements upon the landscape and the other as ecosystem engineers driving vegetation succession. The latter relationship has been used as an argument to support reintroductions of large herbivores onto many landscapes in order to increase vegetation heterogeneity and biodiversity through local-scale disturbance regimes. Most of the research examining the relationship between large herbivores and their impact on landscapes has used extant studies. An alternative approach is to estimate the impact of variations in herbivore populations through time using fossil dung fungal spores and pollen in sedimentary sequences. However, to date, there has been little quantification of fossil dung fungal spore records and their relationship to herbivore numbers, leaving this method open to varied interpretations.
In this study, we developed further the dung fungal spore method and determined the relationship between spore abundance in sediments (number cm−2 year−1) and herbivore biomass densities (kg ha−1). To establish this relationship, we used the following: (i) the abundance of Sporormiella spp., Sordaria spp. and Podospora spp. spores in modern sediments from ponds and (ii) weekly counts of contemporary wildlife over a period of 5 years from the rewilded site, Oostvaardersplassen, in the Netherlands.
Results from this study demonstrate that there is a highly significant relationship between spore abundance and local biomass densities of herbivores that can be used in the calibration of fossil records. Mammal biomass density (comprising Konik horses, Heck cattle and red deer) predicts in a highly significant way the abundance of all dung fungal spores amalgamated together. This relationship is apparent at a very local scale (<10 m), when the characteristics of the sampled ponds are taken into account (surface area of pond, length of shoreline). In addition, we identify that dung fungal spores are principally transported into ponds by surface run-off from the shores.
These results indicate that this method provides a robust quantitative measure of herbivore population size over time.

The data package contains one dataset:
- Contains all the data used in Baker et al 2016 MEE
Date made available17-May-2016
PublisherUniversity of Groningen
Geographical coverageOostvaardersplassen nature reserve, The Netherlands
Access to the dataset Open

    Keywords on Datasets

  • ecology, palaeoecology, paleoecology, Konik horses, red deer, greylag goose, Barnacle goose, white-fronted goose, Sordaria, Sporormiella, Podospora, Bos taurus Linnaeus, Equus ferus caballus Linnaeus, Cervus elaphus Linnaeus, Anser anser, Branta leucopsis, Anser albifrons
Related Publications
  1. Quantification of population sizes of large herbivores and their long-term functional role in ecosystems using dung fungal spores

    Baker, A. G., Cornelissen, P., Bhagwat, S. A., Vera, F. M. W. & Willis, K. J., 1-Nov-2016, In : Methods in ecology and evolution. 7, 11, p. 1273-1281 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

View all (1) »

View graph of relations

ID: 66570419