Publications by authors named "Nicole Hagenah"

23 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Increasing effects of chronic nutrient enrichment on plant diversity loss and ecosystem productivity over time.

Ecology 2021 02 18;102(2):e03218. Epub 2021 Jan 18.

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55108, USA.

Human activities are enriching many of Earth's ecosystems with biologically limiting mineral nutrients such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). In grasslands, this enrichment generally reduces plant diversity and increases productivity. The widely demonstrated positive effect of diversity on productivity suggests a potential negative feedback, whereby nutrient-induced declines in diversity reduce the initial gains in productivity arising from nutrient enrichment. In addition, plant productivity and diversity can be inhibited by accumulations of dead biomass, which may be altered by nutrient enrichment. Over longer time frames, nutrient addition may increase soil fertility by increasing soil organic matter and nutrient pools. We examined the effects of 5-11 yr of nutrient addition at 47 grasslands in 12 countries. Nutrient enrichment increased aboveground live biomass and reduced plant diversity at nearly all sites, and these effects became stronger over time. We did not find evidence that nutrient-induced losses of diversity reduced the positive effects of nutrients on biomass; however, nutrient effects on live biomass increased more slowly at sites where litter was also increasing, regardless of plant diversity. This work suggests that short-term experiments may underestimate the long-term nutrient enrichment effects on global grassland ecosystems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ecy.3218DOI Listing
February 2021

Effect of colony disruption and social isolation on naked mole-rat endocrine correlates.

Gen Comp Endocrinol 2020 09 26;295:113520. Epub 2020 May 26.

Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X20, Hatfield 0028, South Africa; Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X20, Hatfield 0028, South Africa. Electronic address:

The social environment of animals can have profound implications on their behaviour and physiology. Naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber) are highly social with complex dominance hierarchies that influence both stress- and reproduction-related hormones. Homeostasis may be affected by aggressive interactions, colony instability and social isolation. Furthermore, naked mole-rat colonies are characterised by a marked reproductive skew; a single female and few males are reproductively active while other colony members are reproductively suppressed. Thus, there are distinct differences in related hormone concentrations between reproductively active and non-active animals; however, this changes when non-reproductive individuals are removed from the colony. We investigated the effects of social isolation and colony disruption on plasma cortisol and progesterone concentrations in non-breeding naked mole-rats. During colony disruption, we found a significant increase in cortisol concentrations in females removed from the colony for social isolation (experimental) as well as in females that remained in the colony (control). Cortisol concentrations were reduced in both groups after experimental animals were paired up. No changes in cortisol concentrations were observed in control or experimental males after removal from the colony or pairing. This suggests that the females, but not the males, found colony disruption and social isolation stressful. Upon removal from the colony, both control and experimental females showed a small increase in progesterone, which returned to basal levels again in the control animals. Experimental females showed a dramatic spike in progesterone when they were paired with males, indicating reproductive activation. The sex difference in the stress responses may be due to the stronger reproductive suppression imposed on females, or the increased likelihood of dispersal for males. It is clear that the social environment reflects on the endocrine correlates of animals living in a colony, and that the colony structure may affect the sensitivity of the animals to changes in their environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2020.113520DOI Listing
September 2020

Nutrient availability controls the impact of mammalian herbivores on soil carbon and nitrogen pools in grasslands.

Glob Chang Biol 2020 Feb 3. Epub 2020 Feb 3.

Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Grasslands are subject to considerable alteration due to human activities globally, including widespread changes in populations and composition of large mammalian herbivores and elevated supply of nutrients. Grassland soils remain important reservoirs of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N). Herbivores may affect both C and N pools and these changes likely interact with increases in soil nutrient availability. Given the scale of grassland soil fluxes, such changes can have striking consequences for atmospheric C concentrations and the climate. Here, we use the Nutrient Network experiment to examine the responses of soil C and N pools to mammalian herbivore exclusion across 22 grasslands, under ambient and elevated nutrient availabilities (fertilized with NPK + micronutrients). We show that the impact of herbivore exclusion on soil C and N pools depends on fertilization. Under ambient nutrient conditions, we observed no effect of herbivore exclusion, but under elevated nutrient supply, pools are smaller upon herbivore exclusion. The highest mean soil C and N pools were found in grazed and fertilized plots. The decrease in soil C and N upon herbivore exclusion in combination with fertilization correlated with a decrease in aboveground plant biomass and microbial activity, indicating a reduced storage of organic matter and microbial residues as soil C and N. The response of soil C and N pools to herbivore exclusion was contingent on temperature - herbivores likely cause losses of C and N in colder sites and increases in warmer sites. Additionally, grasslands that contain mammalian herbivores have the potential to sequester more N under increased temperature variability and nutrient enrichment than ungrazed grasslands. Our study highlights the importance of conserving mammalian herbivore populations in grasslands worldwide. We need to incorporate local-scale herbivory, and its interaction with nutrient enrichment and climate, within global-scale models to better predict land-atmosphere interactions under future climate change.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15023DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7155038PMC
February 2020

Leaf nutrients, not specific leaf area, are consistent indicators of elevated nutrient inputs.

Nat Ecol Evol 2019 03 4;3(3):400-406. Epub 2019 Feb 4.

Forest Research Centre, School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.

Leaf traits are frequently measured in ecology to provide a 'common currency' for predicting how anthropogenic pressures impact ecosystem function. Here, we test whether leaf traits consistently respond to experimental treatments across 27 globally distributed grassland sites across 4 continents. We find that specific leaf area (leaf area per unit mass)-a commonly measured morphological trait inferring shifts between plant growth strategies-did not respond to up to four years of soil nutrient additions. Leaf nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium concentrations increased in response to the addition of each respective soil nutrient. We found few significant changes in leaf traits when vertebrate herbivores were excluded in the short-term. Leaf nitrogen and potassium concentrations were positively correlated with species turnover, suggesting that interspecific trait variation was a significant predictor of leaf nitrogen and potassium, but not of leaf phosphorus concentration. Climatic conditions and pretreatment soil nutrient levels also accounted for significant amounts of variation in the leaf traits measured. Overall, we find that leaf morphological traits, such as specific leaf area, are not appropriate indicators of plant response to anthropogenic perturbations in grasslands.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0790-1DOI Listing
March 2019

Spatial heterogeneity in species composition constrains plant community responses to herbivory and fertilisation.

Ecol Lett 2018 09 27;21(9):1364-1371. Epub 2018 Jun 27.

Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC, 27708, USA.

Environmental change can result in substantial shifts in community composition. The associated immigration and extinction events are likely constrained by the spatial distribution of species. Still, studies on environmental change typically quantify biotic responses at single spatial (time series within a single plot) or temporal (spatial beta diversity at single time points) scales, ignoring their potential interdependence. Here, we use data from a global network of grassland experiments to determine how turnover responses to two major forms of environmental change - fertilisation and herbivore loss - are affected by species pool size and spatial compositional heterogeneity. Fertilisation led to higher rates of local extinction, whereas turnover in herbivore exclusion plots was driven by species replacement. Overall, sites with more spatially heterogeneous composition showed significantly higher rates of annual turnover, independent of species pool size and treatment. Taking into account spatial biodiversity aspects will therefore improve our understanding of consequences of global and anthropogenic change on community dynamics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.13102DOI Listing
September 2018

Herbivory and eutrophication mediate grassland plant nutrient responses across a global climatic gradient.

Ecology 2018 04 31;99(4):822-831. Epub 2018 Mar 31.

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of MN, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55108, USA.

Plant stoichiometry, the relative concentration of elements, is a key regulator of ecosystem functioning and is also being altered by human activities. In this paper we sought to understand the global drivers of plant stoichiometry and compare the relative contribution of climatic vs. anthropogenic effects. We addressed this goal by measuring plant elemental (C, N, P and K) responses to eutrophication and vertebrate herbivore exclusion at eighteen sites on six continents. Across sites, climate and atmospheric N deposition emerged as strong predictors of plot-level tissue nutrients, mediated by biomass and plant chemistry. Within sites, fertilization increased total plant nutrient pools, but results were contingent on soil fertility and the proportion of grass biomass relative to other functional types. Total plant nutrient pools diverged strongly in response to herbivore exclusion when fertilized; responses were largest in ungrazed plots at low rainfall, whereas herbivore grazing dampened the plant community nutrient responses to fertilization. Our study highlights (1) the importance of climate in determining plant nutrient concentrations mediated through effects on plant biomass, (2) that eutrophication affects grassland nutrient pools via both soil and atmospheric pathways and (3) that interactions among soils, herbivores and eutrophication drive plant nutrient responses at small scales, especially at water-limited sites.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2175DOI Listing
April 2018

Local loss and spatial homogenization of plant diversity reduce ecosystem multifunctionality.

Nat Ecol Evol 2018 Jan 4;2(1):50-56. Epub 2017 Dec 4.

Department of Plant & Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 40546-0091, USA.

Biodiversity is declining in many local communities while also becoming increasingly homogenized across space. Experiments show that local plant species loss reduces ecosystem functioning and services, but the role of spatial homogenization of community composition and the potential interaction between diversity at different scales in maintaining ecosystem functioning remains unclear, especially when many functions are considered (ecosystem multifunctionality). We present an analysis of eight ecosystem functions measured in 65 grasslands worldwide. We find that more diverse grasslands-those with both species-rich local communities (α-diversity) and large compositional differences among localities (β-diversity)-had higher levels of multifunctionality. Moreover, α- and β-diversity synergistically affected multifunctionality, with higher levels of diversity at one scale amplifying the contribution to ecological functions at the other scale. The identity of species influencing ecosystem functioning differed among functions and across local communities, explaining why more diverse grasslands maintained greater functionality when more functions and localities were considered. These results were robust to variation in environmental drivers. Our findings reveal that plant diversity, at both local and landscape scales, contributes to the maintenance of multiple ecosystem services provided by grasslands. Preserving ecosystem functioning therefore requires conservation of biodiversity both within and among ecological communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0395-0DOI Listing
January 2018

Nutrient addition shifts plant community composition towards earlier flowering species in some prairie ecoregions in the U.S. Central Plains.

PLoS One 2017 26;12(5):e0178440. Epub 2017 May 26.

IFEVA, Universidad de Buenos Aires, CONICET, Facultad de Agronomía, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The distribution of flowering across the growing season is governed by each species' evolutionary history and climatic variability. However, global change factors, such as eutrophication and invasion, can alter plant community composition and thus change the distribution of flowering across the growing season. We examined three ecoregions (tall-, mixed, and short-grass prairie) across the U.S. Central Plains to determine how nutrient (nitrogen (N), phosphorus, and potassium (+micronutrient)) addition alters the temporal patterns of plant flowering traits. We calculated total community flowering potential (FP) by distributing peak-season plant cover values across the growing season, allocating each species' cover to only those months in which it typically flowers. We also generated separate FP profiles for exotic and native species and functional group. We compared the ability of the added nutrients to shift the distribution of these FP profiles (total and sub-groups) across the growing season. In all ecoregions, N increased the relative cover of both exotic species and C3 graminoids that flower in May through August. The cover of C4 graminoids decreased with added N, but the response varied by ecoregion and month. However, these functional changes only aggregated to shift the entire community's FP profile in the tall-grass prairie, where the relative cover of plants expected to flower in May and June increased and those that flower in September and October decreased with added N. The relatively low native cover in May and June may leave this ecoregion vulnerable to disturbance-induced invasion by exotic species that occupy this temporal niche. There was no change in the FP profile of the mixed and short-grass prairies with N addition as increased abundance of exotic species and C3 graminoids replaced other species that flower at the same time. In these communities a disturbance other than nutrient addition may be required to disrupt phenological patterns.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0178440PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5446158PMC
September 2017

Addition of multiple limiting resources reduces grassland diversity.

Nature 2016 09 24;537(7618):93-96. Epub 2016 Aug 24.

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Community Ecology, Birmensdorf 8903, Switzerland.

Niche dimensionality provides a general theoretical explanation for biodiversity-more niches, defined by more limiting factors, allow for more ways that species can coexist. Because plant species compete for the same set of limiting resources, theory predicts that addition of a limiting resource eliminates potential trade-offs, reducing the number of species that can coexist. Multiple nutrient limitation of plant production is common and therefore fertilization may reduce diversity by reducing the number or dimensionality of belowground limiting factors. At the same time, nutrient addition, by increasing biomass, should ultimately shift competition from belowground nutrients towards a one-dimensional competitive trade-off for light. Here we show that plant species diversity decreased when a greater number of limiting nutrients were added across 45 grassland sites from a multi-continent experimental network. The number of added nutrients predicted diversity loss, even after controlling for effects of plant biomass, and even where biomass production was not nutrient-limited. We found that elevated resource supply reduced niche dimensionality and diversity and increased both productivity and compositional turnover. Our results point to the importance of understanding dimensionality in ecological systems that are undergoing diversity loss in response to multiple global change factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature19324DOI Listing
September 2016

The influence of balanced and imbalanced resource supply on biodiversity-functioning relationship across ecosystems.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2016 05;371(1694)

Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Aoba 6-3, Aramaki, Aoba-ku, Sendai 982-0011, Japan.

Numerous studies show that increasing species richness leads to higher ecosystem productivity. This effect is often attributed to more efficient portioning of multiple resources in communities with higher numbers of competing species, indicating the role of resource supply and stoichiometry for biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships. Here, we merged theory on ecological stoichiometry with a framework of biodiversity-ecosystem functioning to understand how resource use transfers into primary production. We applied a structural equation model to define patterns of diversity-productivity relationships with respect to available resources. Meta-analysis was used to summarize the findings across ecosystem types ranging from aquatic ecosystems to grasslands and forests. As hypothesized, resource supply increased realized productivity and richness, but we found significant differences between ecosystems and study types. Increased richness was associated with increased productivity, although this effect was not seen in experiments. More even communities had lower productivity, indicating that biomass production is often maintained by a few dominant species, and reduced dominance generally reduced ecosystem productivity. This synthesis, which integrates observational and experimental studies in a variety of ecosystems and geographical regions, exposes common patterns and differences in biodiversity-functioning relationships, and increases the mechanistic understanding of changes in ecosystems productivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0283DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4843703PMC
May 2016

Climate modifies response of non-native and native species richness to nutrient enrichment.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2016 05;371(1694)

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St Paul, MN 55108, USA.

Ecosystem eutrophication often increases domination by non-natives and causes displacement of native taxa. However, variation in environmental conditions may affect the outcome of interactions between native and non-native taxa in environments where nutrient supply is elevated. We examined the interactive effects of eutrophication, climate variability and climate average conditions on the success of native and non-native plant species using experimental nutrient manipulations replicated at 32 grassland sites on four continents. We hypothesized that effects of nutrient addition would be greatest where climate was stable and benign, owing to reduced niche partitioning. We found that the abundance of non-native species increased with nutrient addition independent of climate; however, nutrient addition increased non-native species richness and decreased native species richness, with these effects dampened in warmer or wetter sites. Eutrophication also altered the time scale in which grassland invasion responded to climate, decreasing the importance of long-term climate and increasing that of annual climate. Thus, climatic conditions mediate the responses of native and non-native flora to nutrient enrichment. Our results suggest that the negative effect of nutrient addition on native abundance is decoupled from its effect on richness, and reduces the time scale of the links between climate and compositional change.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0273DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4843694PMC
May 2016

Comment on "Worldwide evidence of a unimodal relationship between productivity and plant species richness".

Science 2016 Jan;351(6272):457

Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University, Kingsbury Drive, Bundoora 3086, Victoria, Australia.

Fraser et al. (Reports, 17 July 2015, p. 302) report a unimodal relationship between productivity and species richness at regional and global scales, which they contrast with the results of Adler et al. (Reports, 23 September 2011, p. 1750). However, both data sets, when analyzed correctly, show clearly and consistently that productivity is a poor predictor of local species richness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aad6236DOI Listing
January 2016

Plant species' origin predicts dominance and response to nutrient enrichment and herbivores in global grasslands.

Nat Commun 2015 Jul 15;6:7710. Epub 2015 Jul 15.

Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park Maryland 20742, USA.

Exotic species dominate many communities; however the functional significance of species' biogeographic origin remains highly contentious. This debate is fuelled in part by the lack of globally replicated, systematic data assessing the relationship between species provenance, function and response to perturbations. We examined the abundance of native and exotic plant species at 64 grasslands in 13 countries, and at a subset of the sites we experimentally tested native and exotic species responses to two fundamental drivers of invasion, mineral nutrient supplies and vertebrate herbivory. Exotic species are six times more likely to dominate communities than native species. Furthermore, while experimental nutrient addition increases the cover and richness of exotic species, nutrients decrease native diversity and cover. Native and exotic species also differ in their response to vertebrate consumer exclusion. These results suggest that species origin has functional significance, and that eutrophication will lead to increased exotic dominance in grasslands.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms8710DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4518311PMC
July 2015

Grassland productivity limited by multiple nutrients.

Nat Plants 2015 Jul 6;1:15080. Epub 2015 Jul 6.

Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40546, USA.

Terrestrial ecosystem productivity is widely accepted to be nutrient limited(1). Although nitrogen (N) is deemed a key determinant of aboveground net primary production (ANPP)(2,3), the prevalence of co-limitation by N and phosphorus (P) is increasingly recognized(4-8). However, the extent to which terrestrial productivity is co-limited by nutrients other than N and P has remained unclear. Here, we report results from a standardized factorial nutrient addition experiment, in which we added N, P and potassium (K) combined with a selection of micronutrients (K+μ), alone or in concert, to 42 grassland sites spanning five continents, and monitored ANPP. Nutrient availability limited productivity at 31 of the 42 grassland sites. And pairwise combinations of N, P, and K+μ co-limited ANPP at 29 of the sites. Nitrogen limitation peaked in cool, high latitude sites. Our findings highlight the importance of less studied nutrients, such as K and micronutrients, for grassland productivity, and point to significant variations in the type and degree of nutrient limitation. We suggest that multiple-nutrient constraints must be considered when assessing the ecosystem-scale consequences of nutrient enrichment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nplants.2015.80DOI Listing
July 2015

Plant diversity predicts beta but not alpha diversity of soil microbes across grasslands worldwide.

Ecol Lett 2015 Jan 28;18(1):85-95. Epub 2014 Nov 28.

CSIRO Land and Water Flagship, Private Bag 5, Wembley, WA, 6913, Australia.

Aboveground-belowground interactions exert critical controls on the composition and function of terrestrial ecosystems, yet the fundamental relationships between plant diversity and soil microbial diversity remain elusive. Theory predicts predominantly positive associations but tests within single sites have shown variable relationships, and associations between plant and microbial diversity across broad spatial scales remain largely unexplored. We compared the diversity of plant, bacterial, archaeal and fungal communities in one hundred and forty-five 1 m(2) plots across 25 temperate grassland sites from four continents. Across sites, the plant alpha diversity patterns were poorly related to those observed for any soil microbial group. However, plant beta diversity (compositional dissimilarity between sites) was significantly correlated with the beta diversity of bacterial and fungal communities, even after controlling for environmental factors. Thus, across a global range of temperate grasslands, plant diversity can predict patterns in the composition of soil microbial communities, but not patterns in alpha diversity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.12381DOI Listing
January 2015

Plant community response to loss of large herbivores differs between North American and South African savanna grasslands.

Ecology 2014 Apr;95(4):808-16

Herbivory and fire shape plant community structure in grass-dominated ecosystems, but these disturbance regimes are being altered around the world. To assess the consequences of such alterations, we excluded large herbivores for seven years from mesic savanna grasslands sites burned at different frequencies in North America (Konza Prairie Biological Station, Kansas, USA) and South Africa (Kruger National Park). We hypothesized that the removal of a single grass-feeding herbivore from Konza would decrease plant community richness and shift community composition due to increased dominance by grasses. Similarly, we expected grass dominance to increase at Kruger when removing large herbivores, but because large herbivores are more diverse, targeting both grasses and forbs, at this study site, the changes due to herbivore removal would be muted. After seven years of large-herbivore exclusion, richness strongly decreased and community composition changed at Konza, whereas little change was evident at Kruger. We found that this divergence in response was largely due to differences in the traits and numbers of dominant grasses between the study sites rather than the predicted differences in herbivore assemblages. Thus, the diversity of large herbivores lost may be less important in determining plant community dynamics than the functional traits of the grasses that dominate mesic, disturbance-maintained savanna grasslands.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/13-1828.1DOI Listing
April 2014

Loss of a large grazer impacts savanna grassland plant communities similarly in North America and South Africa.

Oecologia 2014 May 20;175(1):293-303. Epub 2014 Feb 20.

Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA,

Large herbivore grazing is a widespread disturbance in mesic savanna grasslands which increases herbaceous plant community richness and diversity. However, humans are modifying the impacts of grazing on these ecosystems by removing grazers. A more general understanding of how grazer loss will impact these ecosystems is hampered by differences in the diversity of large herbivore assemblages among savanna grasslands, which can affect the way that grazing influences plant communities. To avoid this we used two unique enclosures each containing a single, functionally similar large herbivore species. Specifically, we studied a bison (Bos bison) enclosure at Konza Prairie Biological Station, USA and an African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) enclosure in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Within these enclosures we erected exclosures in annually burned and unburned sites to determine how grazer loss would impact herbaceous plant communities, while controlling for potential fire-grazing interactions. At both sites, removal of the only grazer decreased grass and forb richness, evenness and diversity, over time. However, in Kruger these changes only occurred with burning. At both sites, changes in plant communities were driven by increased dominance with herbivore exclusion. At Konza, this was caused by increased abundance of one grass species, Andropogon gerardii, while at Kruger, three grasses, Themeda triandra, Panicum coloratum, and Digitaria eriantha increased in abundance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-2895-9DOI Listing
May 2014

Predicting invasion in grassland ecosystems: is exotic dominance the real embarrassment of richness?

Glob Chang Biol 2013 Dec 16;19(12):3677-87. Epub 2013 Oct 16.

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of MN, St. Paul, MN, 55108, USA.

Invasions have increased the size of regional species pools, but are typically assumed to reduce native diversity. However, global-scale tests of this assumption have been elusive because of the focus on exotic species richness, rather than relative abundance. This is problematic because low invader richness can indicate invasion resistance by the native community or, alternatively, dominance by a single exotic species. Here, we used a globally replicated study to quantify relationships between exotic richness and abundance in grass-dominated ecosystems in 13 countries on six continents, ranging from salt marshes to alpine tundra. We tested effects of human land use, native community diversity, herbivore pressure, and nutrient limitation on exotic plant dominance. Despite its widespread use, exotic richness was a poor proxy for exotic dominance at low exotic richness, because sites that contained few exotic species ranged from relatively pristine (low exotic richness and cover) to almost completely exotic-dominated ones (low exotic richness but high exotic cover). Both exotic cover and richness were predicted by native plant diversity (native grass richness) and land use (distance to cultivation). Although climate was important for predicting both exotic cover and richness, climatic factors predicting cover (precipitation variability) differed from those predicting richness (maximum temperature and mean temperature in the wettest quarter). Herbivory and nutrient limitation did not predict exotic richness or cover. Exotic dominance was greatest in areas with low native grass richness at the site- or regional-scale. Although this could reflect native grass displacement, a lack of biotic resistance is a more likely explanation, given that grasses comprise the most aggressive invaders. These findings underscore the need to move beyond richness as a surrogate for the extent of invasion, because this metric confounds monodominance with invasion resistance. Monitoring species' relative abundance will more rapidly advance our understanding of invasions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12370DOI Listing
December 2013

Regional contingencies in the relationship between aboveground biomass and litter in the world's grasslands.

PLoS One 2013 6;8(2):e54988. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.

Based on regional-scale studies, aboveground production and litter decomposition are thought to positively covary, because they are driven by shared biotic and climatic factors. Until now we have been unable to test whether production and decomposition are generally coupled across climatically dissimilar regions, because we lacked replicated data collected within a single vegetation type across multiple regions, obfuscating the drivers and generality of the association between production and decomposition. Furthermore, our understanding of the relationships between production and decomposition rests heavily on separate meta-analyses of each response, because no studies have simultaneously measured production and the accumulation or decomposition of litter using consistent methods at globally relevant scales. Here, we use a multi-country grassland dataset collected using a standardized protocol to show that live plant biomass (an estimate of aboveground net primary production) and litter disappearance (represented by mass loss of aboveground litter) do not strongly covary. Live biomass and litter disappearance varied at different spatial scales. There was substantial variation in live biomass among continents, sites and plots whereas among continent differences accounted for most of the variation in litter disappearance rates. Although there were strong associations among aboveground biomass, litter disappearance and climatic factors in some regions (e.g. U.S. Great Plains), these relationships were inconsistent within and among the regions represented by this study. These results highlight the importance of replication among regions and continents when characterizing the correlations between ecosystem processes and interpreting their global-scale implications for carbon flux. We must exercise caution in parameterizing litter decomposition and aboveground production in future regional and global carbon models as their relationship is complex.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0054988PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3566150PMC
December 2013

Productivity is a poor predictor of plant species richness.

Science 2011 Sep;333(6050):1750-3

Department of Wildland Resources and the Ecology Center, Utah State University, 5230 Old Main, Logan, UT 84322, USA.

For more than 30 years, the relationship between net primary productivity and species richness has generated intense debate in ecology about the processes regulating local diversity. The original view, which is still widely accepted, holds that the relationship is hump-shaped, with richness first rising and then declining with increasing productivity. Although recent meta-analyses questioned the generality of hump-shaped patterns, these syntheses have been criticized for failing to account for methodological differences among studies. We addressed such concerns by conducting standardized sampling in 48 herbaceous-dominated plant communities on five continents. We found no clear relationship between productivity and fine-scale (meters(-2)) richness within sites, within regions, or across the globe. Ecologists should focus on fresh, mechanistic approaches to understanding the multivariate links between productivity and richness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1204498DOI Listing
September 2011

Abundance of introduced species at home predicts abundance away in herbaceous communities.

Ecol Lett 2011 Mar 1;14(3):274-81. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, St. Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.

Many ecosystems worldwide are dominated by introduced plant species, leading to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem function. A common but rarely tested assumption is that these plants are more abundant in introduced vs. native communities, because ecological or evolutionary-based shifts in populations underlie invasion success. Here, data for 26 herbaceous species at 39 sites, within eight countries, revealed that species abundances were similar at native (home) and introduced (away) sites - grass species were generally abundant home and away, while forbs were low in abundance, but more abundant at home. Sites with six or more of these species had similar community abundance hierarchies, suggesting that suites of introduced species are assembling similarly on different continents. Overall, we found that substantial changes to populations are not necessarily a pre-condition for invasion success and that increases in species abundance are unusual. Instead, abundance at home predicts abundance away, a potentially useful additional criterion for biosecurity programmes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01584.xDOI Listing
March 2011

Social organization of the golden brown mouse lemur (Microcebus ravelobensis).

Am J Phys Anthropol 2004 Jan;123(1):40-51

Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, University of Göttingen, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.

Our study provides the first data on the social organization of the golden brown mouse lemur, a nocturnal primate discovered in northwestern Madagascar in 1994. The study was carried out in two 6-month field periods during the dry season, covering time before and during the mating season. The spatial and temporal distributions of the sexes in the population were investigated by mark/recapture and radiotelemetry. Focal observations and the determination of sleeping associations provided further insights into the sociality of this solitary forager. High intra- and intersexual home-range overlaps occurred throughout the study. In general, individuals of both sexes had spatial access to more than one conspecific of the same and the opposite sex. We found no indication for spatial monopolization of females by certain males. These results suggest a dispersed multimale/multifemale system with a promiscuous mating pattern. Individuals showed temporal stability in their home range locations and interacted regularly with conspecifics. Five sleeping groups were identified during the study period: one female group and four mixed-sex groups. Even though sleeping sites were changed frequently, sleeping-group compositions remained stable over time. Thermoregulatory constraints are the most likely explanation for sleeping-group composition with members of both sexes in this species. Mixed-sex sleeping groups can be described as the basic social unit within this dispersed multimale/multifemale society.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.10296DOI Listing
January 2004