Mammalian Community Recovery from Volcanic Eruptions in the Cenozoic of North America
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It is clear that ecosystems are devastated after a volcanic eruption coats the landscape with a layer of ash; however, the ecological recovery of mammalian communities after eruptions is poorly understood. Volcanic eruptions vary with magnitude and type and only a fraction of them have been analyzed for effects on mammalian communities. To better understand mammalian community recovery, I investigated three different lines of evidence. First, I created a new numeric metric for statistically analyzing reproductive strategies in mammals and tested the impact of diet and body size on reproductive strategies within a phylogenetic framework as proof of concept. The trend of lower reproductive rates and larger body size hold true for herbivores and omnivores, but different trajectories exist for carnivores. Second, I investigated how species richness, evenness, and similarity change across volcanic boundaries in the 1980 Mount St. Helens (MSH), Washington, and 1914-1917 Mount Lassen, California, eruptions. Richness and evenness remain unchanged in Lassen. MSH saw an immediate drop in richness followed by an increase over five years to pre-eruptive levels. Chord distance analysis suggests no long-term change in the Lassen fauna. The pre- and post-MSH fauna are different from one another. The post-eruptive fauna was more similar to neighboring regions. Lastly, I tested whether the Oligocene horse Miohippus demonstrated morphological changes across the volcanic Picture Gorge ignimbrite (PGI; 29.069 Ma) in the John Day Formation of Oregon. Variation in upper and lower teeth was first tested to define a single species in the assemblage. Length, width, and wear of teeth were compared across the PGI and there were no significant differences between pre- and post-PGI assemblages. It is clear from my results that larger eruptions tend to have a greater impact on mammalian community recovery than smaller eruptions, but ultimately, mammalian populations are robust and the presence of neighboring communities is important for recolonizing devastated areas. There are two supplemental files associated with this dissertation, a CSV file of raw data downloaded for Chapter III and an excel file of raw data and coefficient of variation calculations for Chapter IV. This dissertation includes both unpublished and co-authored material.