University of Oulu

Price, J.N., Sitters, J., Ohlert, T. et al. Evolutionary history of grazing and resources determine herbivore exclusion effects on plant diversity. Nat Ecol Evol 6, 1290–1298 (2022).

Evolutionary history of grazing and resources determine herbivore exclusion effects on plant diversity

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Author: Price, Jodi N.1; Sitters, Judith2,3; Ohlert, Timothy4;
Organizations: 1Gulbali Institute, Charles Sturt University, Albury, New South Wales, Australia
2Ecology and Biodiversity, Department Biology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
3Wageningen Environmental Research, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands
4Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
5IFEVA-CONICET, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
6Department of Agricultural Biology and Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
7Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
8CSIRO Land and Water, Wembley, Western Australia, Australia
9Department of Aquatic Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Wageningen, the Netherlands
10Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
11Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
12Faculty of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Agricultural University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
13Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
14Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, University of Toronto-Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
15School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
16Rangeland Resources & Systems Research Unit, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Fort Collins, CO, USA
17Archbold Biological Station, Buck Island Ranch, Lake Placid, FL, USA
18Department of Plant Biology and Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
19Centre for Applied Ecology ‘Prof. Baeta Neves’ (CEABN-InBIO), School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
20Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto-Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
21Forest Research Centre, School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
22Desert Ecology Research Group, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
23Department of Zoology, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
24Ecology and Biodiversity Group, Department of Biology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
25Institute of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland
26Department of Biology and Animal Sciences, São Paulo State University-UNESP, Ilha Solteira, Brazil
27Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA
28School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
29Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia
30Community Ecology, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
31Environmental and Conservation Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia
32Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
33Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Wageningen, the Netherlands
34Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-03-07


Ecological models predict that the effects of mammalian herbivore exclusion on plant diversity depend on resource availability and plant exposure to ungulate grazing over evolutionary time. Using an experiment replicated in 57 grasslands on six continents, with contrasting evolutionary history of grazing, we tested how resources (mean annual precipitation and soil nutrients) determine herbivore exclusion effects on plant diversity, richness and evenness. Here we show that at sites with a long history of ungulate grazing, herbivore exclusion reduced plant diversity by reducing both richness and evenness and the responses of richness and diversity to herbivore exclusion decreased with mean annual precipitation. At sites with a short history of grazing, the effects of herbivore exclusion were not related to precipitation but differed for native and exotic plant richness. Thus, plant species’ evolutionary history of grazing continues to shape the response of the world’s grasslands to changing mammalian herbivory.

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Series: Nature ecology & evolution
ISSN: 2397-334X
ISSN-E: 2397-334X
ISSN-L: 2397-334X
Volume: 6
Issue: 9
Pages: 1290 - 1298
DOI: 10.1038/s41559-022-01809-9
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: This work was generated using data from the Nutrient Network ( experiment, funded at the site scale by individual researchers. Author contributions are detailed in the 'Author contributions' section and Supplementary Table 9; Supplementary Table 10 lists all data contributors who are not authors. Coordination and data management have been supported by funding to E.T.B and E.W.S. from the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network (NSF-DEB-1042132) and Long-Term Ecological Research (NSF-DEB-1234162 and NSF-DEB-1831944 to Cedar Creek LTER) programmes and the Institute on the Environment (DG-0001-13). Soil analyses were supported, in part, by USDA-ARS grant no. 58-3098-7-007 to E.T.B. We also thank the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute for hosting project data and the Institute on the Environment for hosting Network meetings. J.S. was supported by The Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), grant no. 12N2618N. I.C.B. and I.S.J. were supported by University of Iceland Research Fund (2015), Soil Conservation Service of Iceland and Orkurannsoknasjoour Landsvirkjunnar (NYR-09-2017, NYR-14-2018, NYR-12-2019). P.T. acknowledges C. Silvoso, C. Molina and S. Campana for field assistance, the familia Bordeu for allowing long-term research on their property and Agro Servicios Pampeanos A.S. for providing the fertilizers. S.M.P. thanks G. Wiehl for assistance with data collection, D. and M. French for supporting the Mt Caroline NutNet site on their property and support through the Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (TERN) Great Western Woodlands Supersite. C.A.A. thanks A. Rivero, K. Brinsko, J. Garrett, H. Lee and Agroecology Research Interns for field and laboratory support. L.S.L. thanks F. and S. Papel e Celulose for field support. R.L.M. thanks J. Nelson and E. Carlisle for field support. M.C.C. acknowledges Companhia das Lezirias for hosting the site and Fundacao para a Ciencia e Tecnologia (FCT) funding for the Forest Research Centre (CEF) (UID/00239/2020). G.M.W. thanks B. Tamayo for technical assistance and Bush Heritage Australia for hosting the site on their property. This is publication no. 7387 of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and KBS contribution 2315.
Copyright information: © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at: