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Floods and famine: climate-induced collapse of a tropical predator-prey community

Ujvari, Beata, Brown, Gregory, Shine, Richard and Madsen, Thomas 2016, Floods and famine: climate-induced collapse of a tropical predator-prey community, Functional ecology, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 453-458, doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12505.

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Title Floods and famine: climate-induced collapse of a tropical predator-prey community
Author(s) Ujvari, Beata
Brown, Gregory
Shine, Richard
Madsen, Thomas
Journal name Functional ecology
Volume number 30
Issue number 3
Start page 453
End page 458
Total pages 6
Publisher Wiley
Place of publication London, Eng.
Publication date 2016-03-01
ISSN 0269-8463
1365-2435
Keyword(s) Australia
Extreme climatic events
Predator-prey population demography
Rodent
Squamate reptile
Wet-dry tropics
Science & Technology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Ecology
Environmental Sciences & Ecology
POPULATION-DYNAMICS
BODY-SIZE
EXTREME EVENTS
WEATHER
SURVIVAL
PYTHONS
IMPACTS
EVOLUTION
Summary Will climate change threaten wildlife populations by gradual shifts in mean conditions, or by increased frequency of extreme weather events? Based on long-term data (from 1991 to 2014), the aim of the present study was to analyse and compare the sensitivity of predator-prey demography to extreme climatic events versus normal, albeit highly variable, annual deviations in climatic conditions in the Australian wet-dry tropics. From 1991 to 2005, predators (water pythons, Liasis fuscus) and their main prey (dusky rats, Rattus colletti) showed significant climate-driven fluctuations in numbers. These fluctuations were, however, trivial compared to the impact of two massive but brief deluges in 2007 and 2011, which virtually eliminated the dusky rats. The two floods resulted in the pythons experiencing an unprecedented famine in seven out of the last 8 years causing a massive shift in python demography, that is a significant reduction in feeding rates, reproductive output, growth rates, relative body mass, survival, mean body length and numbers (from 3173 in 1992 to 96 in 2013). Our results demonstrate that attempts to predict faunal responses to climate change, even if based on long-term studies, may be doomed to failure. Consequently, biologists may need to confront the uncomfortable truth that increased frequency of brief unpredictable bouts of extreme weather can influence populations far more than gradual deviations in mean climatic conditions.
Language eng
DOI 10.1111/1365-2435.12505
Field of Research 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change
06 Biological Sciences
05 Environmental Sciences
Socio Economic Objective 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2015, Wiley
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30079911

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