Date of Award

5-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Major Professor

Aimee Classen

Committee Members

Nathan Sanders, Charles Kwit, Daniel Simberloff

Abstract

What structures systems across the landscape and over time has long been a focus of ecosystem ecology. Together, abiotic and biotic components interact to shape the flow of nutrients and energy through a system. My Ph.D. explores how small mammals directly and indirectly affect ecosystem structure and function using a manipulation experiment in an old-field system in East Tennessee. Despite previous research showing herbivores have large and sustained impacts on ecosystems, small mammals, specifically, are oft overlooked despite their ubiquitous presence. Specifically, I will examine how small mammals contribute to above and belowground community structure, nutrient cycling and decomposition, and how they influence an ecosystem’s stability in response to fire disturbance. By manipulating their presence, I can explore how a biotic ecosystem component directly structures an ecosystem and indirectly by examining an interaction with an abiotic disturbance.

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