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Extreme ecosystem engineering: The impact of marmots on vegetation cover and plant nitrogen and phosphorus content in a cold, extremely arid mountain environment
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  • Piotr Chibowski,
  • Marcin Zegarek,
  • Aleksandra Zarzycka,
  • Małgorzata Suska-Malawska
Piotr Chibowski
University of Warsaw

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Marcin Zegarek
Mammal Research Institute Polish Academy of Sciences
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Aleksandra Zarzycka
University of Warsaw
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Małgorzata Suska-Malawska
University of Warsaw
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We measured the content of nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as nitrogen stable isotopes in plant biomass and marmot faeces in a distance gradient up to 20 meters from marmot burrows in an extremely arid glacier valley in Eastern Pamir, Tajikistan. The goal of this study was to test well-known mechanisms of ecosystem engineering by burrowing animals in previously unstudied conditions. We captured aerial images of the area inhabited by marmots to study the spatial distribution of vegetation. There was no relationship between the presence of burrows and vegetation cover. Burrow mounds were not colonised by plants, as opposed to other ecosystems, where mounds are often microhabitats that enhance plant diversity. A significant increase in N and P in aboveground green plant biomass in the proximity of burrows was found in one out of six studied species. Stable N isotopes did not give further insight into N routing, contrary to our expectations. We assume that plant growth is strongly limited by water availability, which prevents them from utilizing the local increase in nutrients, certainly provided by marmot activity. The results are contrary to numerous studies which showed that the role of burrowing animals as ecosystem engineers increases with increasing abiotic stress, including aridity. This shows a lack of this type of study in the end of the gradient of abiotic factors.
24 Feb 2022Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
24 Feb 2022Submission Checks Completed
24 Feb 2022Assigned to Editor
28 Feb 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
03 Apr 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
11 Apr 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
17 Nov 20221st Revision Received
18 Nov 2022Assigned to Editor
18 Nov 2022Submission Checks Completed
18 Nov 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
21 Nov 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
16 Dec 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
24 Feb 20232nd Revision Received
25 Feb 2023Assigned to Editor
25 Feb 2023Submission Checks Completed
25 Feb 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
08 Mar 2023Editorial Decision: Accept