Human refuse as a major ecological factor in medieval urban vertebrate communities

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O'Connor, T.P. (2000)
  • Publisher: Oxbow Books

Organic refuse, such as food and butchery waste, was commonly deposited in dumps andpits in medieval towns throughout northern Europe. These deposits of refuse attracted and supponed a diverse communily of scavengers and their predators. The organic refuse can be seen as a source of energy that maintained food-webs of donor-controlled populations, giving them potentially high population densities, foundercontrolled response to perturbation, and perhaps a strongly stochastic element in determining which species became dominant at any particular location. The red kite is an example of a scavenger which was strongly dependent on refuse deposition, and it is argued that cats in medieval towns may have lived largely as predators within the refuse-supported food-webs.
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