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

Jodi N. Price* (Corresponding author), Judith Sitters* (Corresponding author), Timothy Ohlert, Pedro M. Tognetti, Cynthia S. Brown, Eric W. Seabloom, Elizabeth T. Borer, Suzanne M. Prober, Elisabeth S. Bakker, Andrew S. MacDougall, Laura Yahdjian, Daniel S. Gruner, Harry Olde Venterink, Isabel C. Barrio, Pamela Graff, Sumanta Bagchi, Carlos Alberto Arnillas, Jonathan D. Bakker, Dana M. Blumenthal, Elizabeth H. BoughtonLars A. Brudvig, Miguel N. Bugalho, Marc W. Cadotte, Maria C. Caldeira, Chris R. Dickman, Ian Donohue, Sonnier Grégory, Yann Hautier, Ingibjörg S. Jónsdóttir, Luciola S. Lannes, Rebecca L. McCulley, Joslin L. Moore, Sally A. Power, Anita C. Risch, Martin Schütz, Rachel Standish, Carly J. Stevens, G. F. Veen, Risto Virtanen, Glenda M. Wardle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1290-1298
Number of pages9
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Herbivory
  • Mammals
  • Plants
  • Soil


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