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Decomposers: The end and the beginning. James Danoff-Burg SEE-U Columbia University. Food Sources of the Players in our Ecological Drama. Producers - get energy from sun Consumers - get energy from living tissue Decomposers - get energy from dead tissue. Roles of Decomposers.

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Decomposers the end and the beginning l.jpg

Decomposers: The end and the beginning

James Danoff-Burg

SEE-U

Columbia University


Food sources of the players in our ecological drama l.jpg

Food Sources of the Players in our Ecological Drama

  • Producers - get energy from sun

  • Consumers - get energy from living tissue

  • Decomposers - get energy from dead tissue


Roles of decomposers l.jpg

Roles of Decomposers

  • Break down tissue of dead organisms

  • Convert it into novel tissue

    • Called Secondary Production

  • Make available nutrients for plants

  • Thus, they begin the energy cycling process again by recycling energy back into the community


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Relative Values

  • Most species rich - Consumers

  • Most biomass - Producers

  • Most taxonomically diverse - Decomposers

    • Have fungi, bacteria, protista, and animalia


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Decomposers at a Carcass

  • Vertebrates (macrofauna)

  • Large invertebrates (mesofauna)

  • Smaller invertebrates (microfauna)

  • Fungi (microfauna)

  • Protists (present throughout)

  • Bacteria (present throughout)


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Forensic Entomology

  • Applied succession theory

  • Used to solve crimes

  • Date the time of death or deposition of a body

  • Great accuracy initially, less accurate with increasing time

  • Primarily study beetle and flies


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Decomposers at a Log

  • Bacteria, Protists, and Fungi

  • Smaller invertebrates (ants and termites)

  • Larger invertebrates (roaches, beetles, etc.)

  • Small mammals


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Succession Involving Decomposers

  • Degradative

    • single large resource (log, carcass)

    • resource is exhausted at the end

    • regular progression of species through that resource

    • unidirectional process of succession

      • this is the case for all successional processes


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Population Control

  • Producers

    • Bottom-up control (sunlight and resource availability)

  • Consumers

    • Either bottom-up (resources) or top-down (from predation, etc.)

  • Decomposers

    • Bottom-up

    • Explosive population growth with resource availability


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Today’s Activity at the BRF

  • How does road intensity affect the decomposer community?

  • Roads detrimentally affect the populations of many species

  • Impact of road changes with group of organisms

    • Some plants and insects only respond a few meters in

    • Larger vertebrates (birds) avoid to 200 m


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Question and Hypotheses

  • How does road intensity affect the decomposer community?

  • Ho: it doesn’t

  • Ha1: Road intensity decreases diversity of the decomposer community

  • Ha2: Road intensity improves diversity of the decomposer community


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Study Organisms

  • Necrophagous beetles

    • ecological category for anything feeding on carrion

  • Carrion beetles (Silphidae)

  • Rove beetles (Staphylinidae)

  • Scarab beetles (Scarabaeidae)

  • Leiodid beetles (Leiodidae)


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Experimental Layout

  • Three road types (5 of each road)

    • single lane dirt road

      • closed canopy

      • low to no traffic intensity

    • two lane paved road

      • relatively open canopy

      • moderate traffic intensity

    • four lane paved road

      • open canopy

      • high traffic intensity


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Sampling Method

  • Hanging baited traps

    • 2-liter bottles

    • two flap openings

    • baited with a single chicken thigh per trap

    • left out for 5 days (set out on Sunday)

  • Count richness and abundance of beetles in lab

    • only beetles- no flies

    • flies can fairly easily escape the trap


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Data Collection

  • Go to field

  • Collect traps

  • Count, ID larger beetles, & release

  • Preserve smaller ones with alcohol

  • Count under microscope

  • Sort to morphospecies


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Analyses & Presentation

  • Count, chart, chi-square tests

  • Write up a PowerPoint presentation of entire project

  • Each person makes up two slides

  • Finish everything by 4:30 pm


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