University of Oulu

Kaarlejärvi, E., Eskelinen, A., Olofsson, J. (2017) Herbivores rescue diversity in warming tundra by modulating trait-dependent species losses and gains. Nature Communications, 8 (1), doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00554-z

Herbivores rescue diversity in warming tundra by modulating trait-dependent species losses and gains

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Author: Kaarlejärvi, Elina1,2; Eskelinen, Anu3,4,5; Olofsson, Johan1
Organizations: 1Climate Impacts Research Centre (CIRC), Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-981 07 Abisko, Sweden
2Department of Biology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
3Department of Physiological Diversity, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research—UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, D-04318 Leipzig, Germany
4German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
5Department of Ecology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-09-06


Climate warming is altering the diversity of plant communities but it remains unknown which species will be lost or gained under warming, especially considering interactions with other factors such as herbivory and nutrient availability. Here, we experimentally test effects of warming, mammalian herbivory and fertilization on tundra species richness and investigate how plant functional traits affect losses and gains. We show that herbivory reverses the impact of warming on diversity: in the presence of herbivores warming increases species richness through higher species gains and lower losses, while in the absence of herbivores warming causes higher species losses and thus decreases species richness. Herbivores promote gains of short-statured species under warming, while herbivore removal and fertilization increase losses of short-statured and resource-conservative species through light limitation. Our results demonstrate that both rarity and traits forecast species losses and gains, and mammalian herbivores are essential for preventing trait-dependent extinctions and mitigate diversity loss under warming and eutrophication.

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Series: Nature communications
ISSN: 2041-1723
ISSN-E: 2041-1723
ISSN-L: 2041-1723
Volume: 8
Article number: 419
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00554-z
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was funded by grants from the JC Kempe Memorial Fund, Societas pro Fauna et Flora Fennica, Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse and Swedish Research Council (2015-00498) to E.K., from the Academy of Finland (projects 253385 and 297191) to A.E. and from the Nordic Centre of Excellence—Tundra and the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (2006–1539) to J.O. The study has been supported by the TRY initiative on plant traits ( The TRY initiative and database is hosted, developed and maintained by J.Kattge and G.Bönisch (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany). TRY is currently supported by DIVERSITAS/Future Earth and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle‐Jena‐Leipzig.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 253385
Detailed Information: 253385 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
297191 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: Data analyzed in this study and the R scripts are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2017. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit licenses/by/4.0/.