Predators, Prey Carcasses, Nutrient Subsidies, & Ecosystem Heterogeneity

EPA Grant Number: F5F71445
Title: Predators, Prey Carcasses, Nutrient Subsidies, & Ecosystem Heterogeneity
Investigators: Bump, Joseph K.
Institution: Michigan Technological University
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through August 31, 2008
Project Amount: $107,794
RFA: GRO Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


The primary goal of this research is to elucidate the extent to which predation influences nutrient subsidies and ecosystem heterogeneity from large animal carcasses. Recent studies document that carcasses provide important nutrient subsidies to ecosystems, influence heterogeneity, and cannot be discounted as transient or ecologically trivial. Yet, the link between predators and the ecological legacy of a prey carcass remains unexplored. This research will improve our understanding of the ecological role of top predators in ecosystems, and the mechanisms of diversity, nutrient transport, and heterogeneity. Thereby aiding personnel to preserve the integrity of the systems in their care by helping them predict the effects of extirpations, re-introductions, and invasions.

My immediate objectives are to:

  1. quantify the soil response to ungulate carcasses,
  2. estimate the landscape magnitude of carcass nutrient subsidies,
  3. and analyzing the effect of wolves on carcass nutrient intensity and spatio-temporal carcass distribution.


This research will be done in three systems with large predators: Isle Royale National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Michigan’s upper peninsula. Quantifying the ecological legacy of ungulate carcasses in terms of major soil nutrients, micro elements, microbial diversity and biomass, and above ground plant response will be done through paired soil sampling on and off carcass sites in both national parks, and an experimental study with road-killed deer in Michigan. Carcass effect data will then be integrated first with long-term ungulate kill site location data in a GIS analysis to explore patterns of nutrient subsidies on the landscape, and second with kill rate data in a modeling analysis of the annual and historical landscape scale magnitude of carcass derived nutrient subsidies. This will permit an estimation of the influence of predators on the ecological legacy of a carcass.

Expected Results:

Peer reviewed scientific publications, doctoral thesis, management recommendations, and a popular article.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, carcass, carrion, nutrient subsidies, heterogeneity, soil heterogeneity, predators, wolves, moose, elk, deer, bison, spatial subsidies, nutrient shadow, microhabitat, temporal and spatial availability, Yellowstone, Isle Royale, ecological filter and legacy, trophic cascade, indirect effect,, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Habitat, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, nutrient transport, habitat dynamics, carcasses, predators, soil chemistry, mortality

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006
  • 2007
  • Final