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Grazing kangaroos act as local recyclers of energy on semiarid floodplains.

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Publication Date
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ANSTO Publications Online
Keywords
  • Marsupials
  • Australia
  • Arid Lands
  • Carbon
  • Diet
  • Stable Isotopes
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Abstract

On Australian semiarid floodplains, large herbivores such as kangaroos have a role in the cycling of energy (carbon) through the mechanism of feeding and defaecation of vegetative material. The degree to which kangaroos are vectors of energy within this system is not fully understood. This study describes the stable carbon isotope signature of floodplain plants and kangaroo scats at two close study sites. Kangaroos were found to deposit scats that mirrored the forage composition at each particular feeding site. Scats were 3.94‰ higher in δ13C values at the site where C4 grasses were available, indicating that this grass contributed ~25–30% of the diet of these kangaroos. The difference in diet due to the relative availability of C3 and C4 forage, detectable in the carbon stable isotope signature of scats, is used to demonstrate that kangaroos are recycling and redistributing energy locally, rather than transporting it more broadly across the floodplain. © 2010, CSIRO Publishing

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