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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: GLOBAL CHANGE IN SEMI-ARID RANGELANDS: ECOSYSTEM RESPONSES AND MANAGEMENT ADAPTATIONS

Location: Rangeland Resources Research

Title: Herbivores and nutrients control grassland plant diversity via light limitation

Authors
item Borer, Elizabeth -
item Seabloom, Eric -
item Gruner, Daniel -
item Harpole, W -
item Hillebrand, Helmut -
item Lind, Eric -
item Adler, Peter -
item Alberti, Juan -
item Anderson, Michael -
item Bakker, Jonathan -
item Biederman, Lori -
item Blumenthal, Dana
item Brown, Cynthia -
item Brudvig, Lars -
item Buckley, Yvonne -
item Cadotte, Marc -
item Chu, Chengjin -
item Cleland, Elsa -
item Crawley, Michael -
item Daleo, Pedro -
item Damschen, Ellen -
item Davies, Kendi -
item Decrappeo, Nicole -
item Du, Guozhen -
item Firn, Jennifer -
item Hautier, Yann -
item Heckman, Robert -
item Hector, Andy -
item Hillerislambers, Janneke -
item Iribarne, Oscar -
item Klein, Julia -
item Knops, Johannes -
item La Pierre, Kimberly -
item Leakey, Andrew -
item Li, Wei -
item Macdougall, Andrew -
item Mcculley, Rebecca -
item Melbourne, Brett -
item Mitchell, Charles -
item Moore, Joslin -
item Mortenson, Brent -
item O'Halloran, Lydia -
item Orrock, John -
item Pascual, Jesus -
item Prober, Suzanne -
item Pyke, David -
item Risch, Anita -
item Schuetz, Martin -
item Smith, Melinda -
item Stevens, Carly -
item Sullivan, Lauren -
item Williams, Ryan -
item Wragg, Peter -
item Wright, Justin -
item Yang, Louie -

Submitted to: Nature
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 11, 2014
Publication Date: March 9, 2014
Citation: Borer, E.T., Seabloom, E.W., Gruner, D.S., Harpole, W.S., Hillebrand, H., Lind, E.M., Adler, P.B., Alberti, J., Anderson, M.T., Bakker, J.D., Biederman, L., Blumenthal, D.M., Brown, C.S., Brudvig, L.A., Buckley, Y.M., Cadotte, M., Chu, C., Cleland, E., Crawley, M.J., Daleo, P., Damschen, E.I., Davies, K.F., Decrappeo, N.M., Du, G., Firn, J., Hautier, Y., Heckman, R.W., Hector, A., Hillerislambers, J., Iribarne, O., Klein, J.A., Knops, J.M., La Pierre, K.J., Leakey, A.D., Li, W., Macdougall, A.S., Mcculley, R.L., Melbourne, B.A., Mitchell, C.E., Moore, J.L., Mortenson, B., O'Halloran, L.R., Orrock, J.L., Pascual, J., Prober, S.M., Pyke, D.A., Risch, A.C., Schuetz, M., Smith, M.D., Stevens, C.J., Sullivan, L.L., Williams, R.J., Wragg, P.D., Wright, J.P., Yang, L.H. 2014. Herbivores and nutrients control grassland plant diversity via light limitation. Nature. 508:517-520.

Interpretive Summary: Human alterations to nutrient cycles and herbivore communities are dramatically altering global biodiversity. Our multi-year experiment replicated in 40 grasslands on six continents demonstrates that nutrients and herbivores can serve as counteracting forces controlling plant diversity, independent of site characteristics such as plant productivity, soils, herbivore type, and climate. Nutrient addition consistently reduced local diversity via light limitation, and herbivory rescued diversity at sites where it alleviated light limitation. Thus, species loss from anthropogenic nutrient enrichment can be ameliorated where herbivory increases ground-level light.

Technical Abstract: Human alterations to nutrient cycles and herbivore communities are dramatically altering global biodiversity. Theory predicts these changes to be strongly counteractive: nutrient addition drives plant species loss through intensified competition for light, whereas herbivores prevent competitive exclusion by increasing ground-level light, especially in productive systems. Using experimental data spanning a globally-relevant range of conditions, we test the generality of the hypothesis that herbaceous plant species losses caused by eutrophication may be offset by increased light availability due to herbivory. Our multi-year experiment replicated in 40 grasslands on six continents demonstrates that nutrients and herbivores can serve as counteracting forces controlling plant diversity via light limitation, independent of site productivity, soils, herbivore type, and climate. Nutrient addition consistently reduced local diversity via light limitation, and herbivory rescued diversity at sites where it alleviated light limitation. Thus, species loss from anthropogenic eutrophication can be ameliorated where herbivory increases ground-level light.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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