raccoon, intraguild predation, mesopredator release, ghost crab, sea turtle
Traditional views of food web dynamics have characterized species interactions as linear and direct. However, modern food web theory suggests that interactions can also be nonlinear and indirect, so that disturbance at one trophic level is transmitted throughout the community. Many previous studies have demonstrated that the removal of top predators from terrestrial ecosystems can have broad-scale impacts on community ecology. I examined the direct and indirect effects of raccoon removal from sea turtle nesting beaches in east-central Florida during the summers of 2003 and 2004. Raccoon and ghost crab predation are among the highest causes of egg mortality for sea turtles in Florida and raccoons are intraguild predators of ghost crabs. Because of the damage done to sea turtle nests, raccoons have been removed from some beaches during the sea turtle nesting season. I compared the diet and demography of a raccoon population that had experienced two decades of raccoon removal to a population that had previously been unmanipulated. I found that long-term raccoon removal had created a significantly male-biased sex ratio in that population. I also examined the indirect effects of raccoon removal by comparing the abundances of raccoons and ghost crabs at four study sites using passive tracking plots. My data suggest intraguild predation by raccoons limits ghost crab abundance and that reduced raccoon abundance allowed ghost crab abundance to increase, resulting in a net increase in sea turtle egg predation. These results support my hypothesis that intraguild predation of ghost crabs by raccoons is an influential interaction on sea turtle nesting beach community dynamics.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Arts and Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Barton, Brandon, "Cascading Effects Of Predator Removal On The Ecology Of Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches" (2005). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 280.