A Review of the Engineering Role of Burrowing Animals: Implication of Chinese Pangolin as an Ecosystem Engineer

Song Sun (Feline Research Center of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, College of Wildlife and Natural Protected Area, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin, 150040, China;Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, Protection and Utilization, Guangdong Academy of Forestry, Guangzhou, 510520, China)
Hongliang Dou (Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, Protection and Utilization, Guangdong Academy of Forestry, Guangzhou, 510520, China)
Shichao Wei (Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, Protection and Utilization, Guangdong Academy of Forestry, Guangzhou, 510520, China)
Yani Fang (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, M2J4A6, Canada)
Zexu Long (Feline Research Center of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, College of Wildlife and Natural Protected Area, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin, 150040, China)
Jiao Wang (Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, Protection and Utilization, Guangdong Academy of Forestry, Guangzhou, 510520, China)
Fuyu An (Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, Protection and Utilization, Guangdong Academy of Forestry,Guangzhou, 510520, China)
Jinqian Xu (Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, Protection and Utilization, Guangdong Academy of Forestry,Guangzhou, 510520, China)
Tingting Xue (Feline Research Center of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, College of Wildlife and Natural Protected Area, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin, 150040, China;Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, Protection and Utilization, Guangdong Academy of Forestry, Guangzhou, 510520, China)
Huangjie Qiu (Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, Protection and Utilization, Guangdong Academy of Forestry,Guangzhou, 510520, China)
Yan Hua (Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, Protection and Utilization, Guangdong Academy of Forestry,Guangzhou, 510520, China)
Guangshun Jiang (Feline Research Center of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, College of Wildlife and Natural Protected Area, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin, 150040, China)


Ecosystem engineers are organisms that alter the distribution of resources in the environment by creating, modifying, maintaining and/or destroying the habitat. They can affect the structure and function of the whole ecosystem furthermore. Burrowing engineers are an important group in ecosystem engineers as they play a critical role in soil translocation and habitat creation in various types of environment.However, few researchers have systematically summarized and analyzed the studies of burrowing engineers. We reviewing the existing ecological studies of burrowing engineer about their interaction with habitat through five directions: (1) soil turnover; (2)changing soil physicochemical properties; (3) changing plant community structure; (4) providing limited resources for commensal animals;and/or (5) affecting animal communities. The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is a typical example of burrowing mammals, in part (5), we focus on the interspecific relationships among burrow commensal species of Chinese pangolin. The engineering effects vary with environmental gradient, literature indicates that burrowing engineer play a stronger role in habitat transformation in the tropical and subtropical areas.The most common experiment method is comparative measurements (include different spatial and temporal scale),manipulative experiment is relatively few. We found that most of the engineering effects had positive feedback to the local ecosystem, increased plant abundance and resilience, increased biodiversity and consequently improved ecosystem functioning. With the global background of dramatic climate change and biodiversity loss in recent decades, we recommend future studies should improving knowledge of long-term engineering effects on population scale and landscape scale, exploring ecological cascades through trophic and engineering pathways, to better understand the attribute of the burrowing behavior of engineers to restore ecosystems and habitat creation. The review is presented as an aid to systematically expound the engineering effect of burrowing animals in the ecosystem, and provided new ideas and advice for planning and implementing conservation management.


Burrowing engineer;Burrow commensal species;Chinese pangolin;Ecosystem engineer;Habitat modification;Biodiversity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.30564/jzr.v3i3.3102


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