Predicted Climate-Induced Reductions in Scavenging in Eastern North America

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Scavenging is an important function within ecosystems. Scavengers remove organic matter, reduce disease, stabilize food webs, and generally make ecosystems more resilient to environmental changes.

USGS and university researchers investigated the impact of climate on the number and diversity of scavenger species. They used a long-term dataset from camera traps deployed with animal carcasses as bait along a 1,881 km latitudinal gradient in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern US from 2008-2017. The number of mammalian and avian scavengers detected was highest during drier conditions, when food was limited and reliance on and detection of carrion was high. The researchers then used these results to project the future number of scavengers that would be detected in the year 2070. The study found up to 80% and 67% reductions in avian and mammalian scavengers at baited sites due to predicted climate shifts. This study highlights the importance of conducting studies of scavenger community dynamics across temperate ecosystems.

Marneweck, C.J., Katzner, T.E., Jachowski, D.S., 2021, Predicted climate-induced reductions in scavenging in eastern North America: Global Change Biology, v. 27, no. 14, p. 3383-3394.