Documents

DOI

Large vertebrate herbivores, as well as plant–soil feedback interactions are important drivers of plant performance, plant community composition and vegetation dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems. However, it is poorly understood whether and how large vertebrate herbivores and plant–soil feedback effects interact. Here, we study the response of grassland plant species to grazing-induced legacy effects in the soil and we explore whether these plant responses can help us to understand long-term vegetation dynamics in the field. In a greenhouse experiment we tested the response of four grassland plant species, Agrostis capillaris, Festuca rubra, Holcus lanatus and Rumex acetosa, to field-conditioned soils from grazed and ungrazed grassland. We relate these responses to long-term vegetation data from a grassland exclosure experiment in the field. In the greenhouse experiment, we found that total biomass production and biomass allocation to roots was higher in soils from grazed than from ungrazed plots. There were only few relationships between plant production in the greenhouse and the abundance of conspecifics in the field. Spatiotemporal patterns in plant community composition were more stable in grazed than ungrazed grassland plots, but were not related to plant–soil feedbacks effects and biomass allocation patterns. We conclude that grazing-induced soil legacy effects mainly influenced plant biomass allocation patterns, but could not explain altered vegetation dynamics in grazed grasslands. Consequently, the direct effects of grazing on plant community composition (e.g. through modifying light competition or differences in grazing tolerance) appear to overrule indirect effects through changes in plant–soil feedback
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)800-806
JournalOikos
Volume123
Issue number7
DOI
StatePublished - 2014

    Research areas

  • national

ID: 133590