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Herbivores and Nutrients Control Grassland Plant Diversity via Light Limitation
Nature (2014)
  • Elizabeth T. Borer, University of Minnesota
  • Eric W. Seabloom, University of Minnesota
  • Daniel S. Gruner, University of Maryland
  • W. Stanley Harpole, Iowa State University
  • Helmut Hillebrand
  • Eric M. Lind, University of Minnesota
  • Peter B. Adler, Utah State University
  • Juan Alberti
  • T. Michael Anderson, Wake Forest University
  • Jonathan D. Bakker, University of Washington
  • Lori A. Biederman, Iowa State University
  • Dana Blumenthal
  • Cynthia S. Brown, Colorado State University - Fort Collins
  • Lars A. Brudvig, Michigan State University
  • Yvonne M. Buckley
  • Marc Cadotte
  • Chengjin Chu
  • Elsa E. Cleland, University of California, San Diego
  • Michael J. Crawley
  • Pedro Daleo
  • Ellen I. Damschen
  • Kendi F. Davies, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Nicole M. DeCrappeo, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Guozhen Du
  • Jennifer Firn
  • Yann Hautier, University of Minnesota
  • Robert W. Heckman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Andy Hector
  • Janneke HilleRisLambers, University of Washington
  • Oscar Iribarne
  • Julia A. Klein, Colorado State University - Fort Collins
  • Johannes M. H. Knops
  • Kimberly J. La Pierre, University of California - Berkeley
  • Andrew D. B. Leakey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Wei Li, Iowa State University
  • Andrew S. MacDougall
  • Rebecca L. McCulley, University of Kentucky
  • Brett A. Melbourne, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Charles E. Mitchell, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Joslin L. Moore
  • Brent D. Mortensen, Iowa State University
  • Lydia R. O'Halloran, Oregon State University
  • John L. Orrock
  • Jesús Pascual
  • Suzanne M. Prober
  • David A. Pyke, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Anita C. Risch
  • Martin Schuetz
  • Melinda D. Smith, Colorado State University - Fort Collins
  • Carly J. Stevens
  • Lauren K. Sullivan, Iowa State University
  • Ryan J. Williams, Iowa State University
  • Peter D. Wragg, University of Minnesota
  • Justin P. Wright, Duke University
  • Louie H. Yang, University of California - Davis

Human alterations to nutrient cycles and herbivore communities are affecting global biodiversity dramatically. 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 systems. 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.

  • Grassland ecology,
  • Biodiversity,
  • Community ecology
Publication Date
April 24, 2014
Citation Information
Elizabeth T. Borer, Eric W. Seabloom, Daniel S. Gruner, W. Stanley Harpole, et al.. "Herbivores and Nutrients Control Grassland Plant Diversity via Light Limitation" Nature Vol. 508 (2014)
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