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Nat Ecol Evol. 2018 Dec;2(12):1925-1932. doi: 10.1038/s41559-018-0696-y. Epub 2018 Oct 29.

Change in dominance determines herbivore effects on plant biodiversity.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA. Sally.Koerner@uncg.edu.
2
Department of Biology and Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
3
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.
4
Jornada LTER Program & Plant and Environmental Sciences Department, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, USA.
5
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
6
Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA.
7
Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA.
8
Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA.
9
South African Environmental Observation Network, Ndlovu Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Phalaborwa, South Africa.
10
School of Geography, Archaeology, and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
11
Tecnológico Nacional de México/I.T. Roque, Celaya, Mexico.
12
Jornada Basin LTER Program, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, USA.
13
Department of Biology, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.
14
School of Animal and Range Sciences, Hawassa University, Hawassa, Ethiopia.
15
Department of Animal Science and Production, Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Gaborone, Botswana.
16
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.
17
Department of Aquatic Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Wageningen, The Netherlands.
18
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.
19
Department of Wildland Resources and Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA.
20
U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, Bozeman, MT, USA.
21
Department of Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA.
22
Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA.
23
Archbold Biological Station, MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center, Venus, FL, USA.
24
UCSB Kenneth S. Norris Rancho Marino Reserve, Cambria, CA, USA.
25
INTA Cuenca del Salado, Grupo de Producción Vegetal, Rauch, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
26
IFEVA-CONICET, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
27
State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China.
28
Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.
29
Université Grenoble Alpes, Irstea, UR LESSEM, Saint-Martin-d'Hères, France.
30
Institut Polytechnique Rural/Institut de Formation et de Recherche Appliquee, Katibougou, Mali.
31
Ecosystem Mangement Science, Science Division, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Merimbula, New South Wales, Australia.
32
Centre for Ecosystem Studies, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
33
Brackenridge Field Laboratory, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA.
34
Island Ecology and Biogeography Group, Instituto Universitario de Enfermedades Tropicales y Salud Pública de Canarias, Universidad de La Laguna, La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain.
35
Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.
36
Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
37
Department of Zoology and Physiology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA.
38
New Zealand Forest Surveys, Napier, New Zealand.
39
Université des Sciences, des Techniques et des Technologies (USTTB), Bamako, Mali.
40
School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA.
41
School of Natural Resource Management, Nelson Mandela University, George, South Africa.
42
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland.
43
Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay.
44
CERZOS-CONICET and Departamento de Biología, Bioquímica y Farmacia, UNS, Bahía Blanca, Argentina.
45
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
46
PO Box 943, LaPorte, CO, USA.
47
South African Environmental Observation Network: Arid Lands Node, Prince Albert, South Africa.
48
Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.
49
Arthur Rylah Institute, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia.
50
Conservation Ecology Group, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
51
Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.
52
Department of Life Sciences, University of Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, Spain.
53
The Nature Conservancy, Lander, WY, USA.
54
Research Unit Community Ecology, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Birmensdorf, Switzerland.
55
Department of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana CSIC, Sevilla, Spain.
56
School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.
57
National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, GKVK Campus, Bangalore, India.
58
Graduate School of Environment and Information Sciences, Yokohama National University, Yokohama, Japan.
59
U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center and Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
60
School of Applied and Biomedical Science, Federation University, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.
61
Department of Biology, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany.
62
Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.
63
Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
64
University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Natural and Applied Sciences, Green Bay, WI, USA.
65
USDA-ARS, Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, Miles City, MT, USA.
66
College of Animal Science and Technology, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China.
67
Earth Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.
68
Office of Environment and Heritage, Buronga, New South Wales, Australia.
69
Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Department of Biology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
70
Department of Biological Sciences, Kent State University, Kent, OH, USA.
71
Lhasa National Ecological Research Station, Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
72
Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA.
73
Mpala Research Centre, Nanyuki, Kenya.
74
National Hulunber Grassland Ecosystem Observation and Research Station/Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing, China.
75
Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA.

Abstract

Herbivores alter plant biodiversity (species richness) in many of the world's ecosystems, but the magnitude and the direction of herbivore effects on biodiversity vary widely within and among ecosystems. One current theory predicts that herbivores enhance plant biodiversity at high productivity but have the opposite effect at low productivity. Yet, empirical support for the importance of site productivity as a mediator of these herbivore impacts is equivocal. Here, we synthesize data from 252 large-herbivore exclusion studies, spanning a 20-fold range in site productivity, to test an alternative hypothesis-that herbivore-induced changes in the competitive environment determine the response of plant biodiversity to herbivory irrespective of productivity. Under this hypothesis, when herbivores reduce the abundance (biomass, cover) of dominant species (for example, because the dominant plant is palatable), additional resources become available to support new species, thereby increasing biodiversity. By contrast, if herbivores promote high dominance by increasing the abundance of herbivory-resistant, unpalatable species, then resource availability for other species decreases reducing biodiversity. We show that herbivore-induced change in dominance, independent of site productivity or precipitation (a proxy for productivity), is the best predictor of herbivore effects on biodiversity in grassland and savannah sites. Given that most herbaceous ecosystems are dominated by one or a few species, altering the competitive environment via herbivores or by other means may be an effective strategy for conserving biodiversity in grasslands and savannahs globally.

PMID:
30374174
DOI:
10.1038/s41559-018-0696-y

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