Page Banner

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)

Author
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: 2/11/2014
Publication Date: 3/9/2014
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: 8/24/2016
Footer Content Back to Top of Page