Do dung fungal spores make a good proxy for past distribution of large herbivores?
Baker AG., Bhagwat SA., Willis KJ.
The importance of herbivory as a long-term driver of ecosystem change is a topic that has been hotly debated over the past few years. An understanding of the interaction between herbivores and ecosystems is particularly important for conservation policies aimed at re-wilding. Dung fungal spores have been highlighted as an important potential proxy to reconstruct large herbivore densities across past landscapes. However, this proxy appears to have been used and interpreted in a variety of ways in addition to highly variable taxonomic identification of dung fungal spores. Here we review studies that have utilised fungal spore assemblages to assess past herbivore presence and test the validity of this method. We aim to determine whether there is a set of identifiable dung fungal spores that can unequivocally track variation of large herbivore activity through time and across regions. Our meta-analysis identifies: (1) spore types that are commonly found to be indicative of large herbivores and their geographical ranges, (2) linkages between these spores and their biological origin, and (3) the most appropriate quantitative method to express their abundance for comparisons through time and across sites. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.