University of Oulu

Soininen, E.M., Barrio, I.C., Bjørkås, R. et al. Location of studies and evidence of effects of herbivory on Arctic vegetation: a systematic map. Environ Evid 10, 25 (2021).

Location of studies and evidence of effects of herbivory on Arctic vegetation: a systematic map

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Author: Soininen, E. M.1; Barrio, I. C.2; Bjørkås, R.3,4;
Organizations: 1UiT Arctic Univ Norway, Dept Arctic & Marine Biol, N-9037 Tromso, Norway.
2Agr Univ Iceland, Fac Environm & Forest Sci, IS-112 Reykjavk, Iceland.
3Norwegian Univ Sci & Technol, Ctr Biodivers Dynam, Dept Biol, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway.
4Univ Oslo, Ctr Ecol & Evolutionary Synth, Oslo, Norway.
5Univ Gothenburg, Dept Biol & Environm Sci, POB 461, S-40530 Gothenburg, Sweden.
6Boise State Univ, Human Environm Syst, Boise, ID 83725 USA.
7Univ Helsinki, Organismal & Evolutionary Res Programme, Helsinki 00014, Finland.
8Norwegian Univ Sci & Technol, NTNU Univ Museum, Dept Nat Hist, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway.
9Russian Acad Sci, Inst Plant & Anim Ecol, Ural Branch, Dynam Arctic Ecosyst Lab,Arctic Res Stn, Zelenaya Gorka Str 21, Labytnangi 629400, Russia.
10Univ Gothenburg, Dept Earth Sci, S-40530 Gothenburg, Sweden.
11Gothenburg Global Biodivers Ctr, S-40530 Gothenburg, Sweden.
12Univ Tartu, Inst Ecol & Earth Sci, Dept Bot, EE-51005 Tartu, Estonia.
13Norwegian Polar Res Inst, Fram Ctr, N-9296 Tromso, Norway.
14Dartmouth Coll, Ecol Evolut Ecosyst & Soc, Hanover, NH 03755 USA.
15Boise State Univ, Dept Biol Sci, Boise, ID 83725 USA.
16Univ Laval, Ctr Etud Nord, 2425 Rue Agr, Quebec City, PQ, Canada.
17Univ Laval, Plant Sci Dept, 2425 Rue Agr, Quebec City, PQ, Canada.
18Univ Bourgogne Franche Comte, UMR 6249 Chronoenvironm, F-25000 Besancon, France.
19Grp Rech Ecol Arct, F-21440 Francheville, France.
20European Forest Inst, Yliopistokatu 6 B, Joensuu 80100, Finland.
21Lund Univ, Dept Phys Geog & Ecosyst Sci, Solvegaten 12, S-22362 Lund, Sweden.
22Norwegian Inst Nat Res, Fram Ctr, Dept Arctic Ecol, N-9297 Tromso, Norway.
23Univ Durham, Dept Biosci, Stockton Rd, Durham DH1 3LE, England.
24Washington Univ, Dept Biol, St Louis, MO 63130 USA.
25Arctic Inst, Washington, DC 20009 USA.
26Univ Oxford, Sch Geog & Environm, Oxford OX1 3QY, England.
27Simon Fraser Univ, Sch Environm Sci, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada.
28Czech Acad Sci, Inst Hydrobiol, Biol Ctr, Na Sadkach 7, Ceske Budejovice 37005, Czech Republic.
29Univ South Bohemia, Fac Sci, Branisovska 1760, Ceske Budejovice 37005, Czech Republic.
30Inland Norway Univ Appl Sci, Dept Forestry & Wildlife Management, N-2418 Elverum, Norway.
31Umea Univ, Dept Ecol & Environm Sci, Linnaeus Vag 6, S-90187 Umea, Sweden.
32Univ Freiburg, Dept Biol, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany.
33NASA, Ames Res Ctr, Moffett Field, CA 94035 USA.
34Bay Area Environm Res Inst, Moffett Field, CA 94035 USA.
35No Arizona Univ, Ctr Ecosyst Sci & Soc, Flagstaff, AZ 86011 USA.
36No Arizona Univ, Dept Biol Sci, Flagstaff, AZ 86011 USA.
37Univ Autonoma Barcelona, Dept Med & Cirurgia Anim, Wildlife Ecol & Hlth Grp WE&H, Barcelona 08193, Spain.
38Univ Autonoma Barcelona, Dept Med & Cirurgia Anim, Serv Ecopatol Fauna Salvatge SEFaS, Barcelona 08193, Spain.
39Univ Iceland, Environm & Nat Resources, Sturlugata 7, IS-101 Reykjavik, Iceland.
40Zool Soc London, Inst Zool, Regents Pk, London NW1 4RY, England.
41Univ Oulu, Ecol & Genet Res Unit, POB 3000, Oulu 90014, Finland.
42Univ Lapland, Arctic Ctr, POB 122, Rovaniemi 96101, Finland.
43Swedish Univ Agr Sci SLU, Dept Ecol, Ulls Vag 16, S-75651 Uppsala, Sweden.
44Univ Minnesota, Dept Ecol Evolut & Behav, 1479 Gortner Ave, St Paul, MN 55108 USA.
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-10-29


Background: Herbivores modify the structure and function of tundra ecosystems. Understanding their impacts is necessary to assess the responses of these ecosystems to ongoing environmental changes. However, the effects of herbivores on plants and ecosystem structure and function vary across the Arctic. Strong spatial variation in herbivore effects implies that the results of individual studies on herbivory depend on local conditions, i.e., their ecological context. An important first step in assessing whether generalizable conclusions can be produced is to identify the existing studies and assess how well they cover the underlying environmental conditions across the Arctic. This systematic map aims to identify the ecological contexts in which herbivore impacts on vegetation have been studied in the Arctic. Specifically, the primary question of the systematic map was: ”What evidence exists on the effects of herbivores on Arctic vegetation?”.

Methods: We used a published systematic map protocol to identify studies addressing the effects of herbivores on Arctic vegetation. We conducted searches for relevant literature in online databases, search engines and specialist websites. Literature was screened to identify eligible studies, defined as reporting primary data on herbivore impacts on Arctic plants and plant communities. We extracted information on variables that describe the ecological context of the studies, from the studies themselves and from geospatial data. We synthesized the findings narratively and created a Shiny App where the coded data are searchable and variables can be visually explored. Review findings We identified 309 relevant articles with 662 studies (representing different ecological contexts or datasets within the same article). These studies addressed vertebrate herbivory seven times more often than invertebrate herbivory. Geographically, the largest cluster of studies was in Northern Fennoscandia. Warmer and wetter parts of the Arctic had the largest representation, as did coastal areas and areas where the increase in temperature has been moderate. In contrast, studies spanned the full range of ecological context variables describing Arctic vertebrate herbivore diversity and human population density and impact.

Conclusions: The current evidence base might not be sufficient to understand the effects of herbivores on Arctic vegetation throughout the region, as we identified clear biases in the distribution of herbivore studies in the Arctic and a limited evidence base on invertebrate herbivory. In particular, the overrepresentation of studies in areas with moderate increases in temperature prevents robust generalizations about the effects of herbivores under different climatic scenarios.

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Series: Environmental evidence
ISSN: 2047-2382
ISSN-E: 2047-2382
ISSN-L: 2047-2382
Volume: 10
Issue: 1
Article number: 25
DOI: 10.1186/s13750-021-00240-0
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: FRAM-High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment supported this work with funding for two workshops (project name: "The status of evidence for herbivory in Arctic tundra ecosystems-A protocol for a systematic map"). Funding from the Terrestrial Working Group of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) was received to organize the Herbivory Network meetings in Iceland in 2016 and in Yamal in 2019, where this project was worked upon. PM was supported by GACR 17-20839S, EK by Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation (via Research Centre for Ecological Change), OG by the French Polar Institute-IPEV (program 1036 Interactions), ICB received funding from the Icelandic Research Fund (TUNDRAsalad; grant nr. 217754). JDMS was supported by the Research Council of Norway (262064), IK was funded through the Durham ARCTIC DTP by the Leverhulme Trust. The publication charges for this article have been funded by a grant from the publication fund of UiT The Arctic University of Norway.
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