Herbivores and nutrients control grassland plant diversity via light limitation

Borer, Elizabeth T., Seabloom, Eric W., Gruner, Daniel S., Harpole, W. Stanley, Hillebrand, Helmut, Lind, Eric M., Adler, Peter B., Alberti, Juan, Anderson, T. Michael, Bakker, Jonathan D., Biederman, Lori, Blumenthal, Dana, Brown, Cynthia S., Brudvig, Lars A., Buckley, Yvonne M., Cadotte, Marc, Chu, Chengjin, Cleland, Elsa E., Crawley, Michael J., Daleo, Pedro, Damschen, Ellen I., Davies, Kendi F., DeCrappeo, Nicole M., Du, Guozhen, Firn, Jennifer, Hautier, Yann, Heckman, Robert W., Hector, Andy, HilleRisLambers, Janneke, Iribarne, Oscar, Klein, Julia A., Knops, Johannes M. H., La Pierre, Kimberly J., Leakey, Andrew D. B., Li, Wei, MacDougall, Andrew S., McCulley, Rebecca L., Melbourne, Brett A., Mitchell, Charles E., Moore, Joslin L., Mortensen, Brent, O'Halloran, Lydia R., Orrock, John L., Pascual, Jesús, Prober, Suzanne M., Pyke, David A., Risch, Anita C., Schuetz, Martin, Smith, Melinda D., Stevens, Carly J., Sullivan, Lauren L., Williams, Ryan J., Wragg, Peter D., Wright, Justin P., & Yang, Louie H. (2014) Herbivores and nutrients control grassland plant diversity via light limitation. Nature, 508(7497), pp. 517-520.

View at publisher


Human alterations to nutrient cycles1, 2 and herbivore communities3, 4, 5, 6, 7 are affecting global biodiversity dramatically2. Ecological theory predicts these changes should be strongly counteractive: nutrient addition drives plant species loss through intensified competition for light, whereas herbivores prevent competitive exclusion by increasing ground-level light, particularly in productive systems8, 9. Here we use experimental data spanning a globally relevant range of conditions to test the hypothesis that herbaceous plant species losses caused by eutrophication may be offset by increased light availability due to herbivory. This experiment, replicated in 40 grasslands on 6 continents, demonstrates that nutrients and herbivores can serve as counteracting forces to control local plant diversity through light limitation, independent of site productivity, soil nitrogen, herbivore type and climate. Nutrient addition consistently reduced local diversity through light limitation, and herbivory rescued diversity at sites where it alleviated light limitation. Thus, species loss from anthropogenic eutrophication can be ameliorated in grasslands where herbivory increases ground-level light.

Impact and interest:

66 citations in Scopus
Search Google Scholar™
57 citations in Web of Science®

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 72582
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Nutrient Cycles, Herbivore Communities, Global Diversity, Eutrophication
DOI: 10.1038/nature13144
ISSN: 1476-4687
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited
Deposited On: 04 Jun 2014 22:38
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2014 23:39

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page