THE EFFECTS OF PRODUCTIVITY, HERBIVORY, AND PLANT SPECIES TURNOVER IN GRASSLAND FOOD WEBS

THE EFFECTS OF PRODUCTIVITY, HERBIVORY, AND PLANT SPECIES TURNOVER IN GRASSLAND FOOD WEBS In order to evaluate the patterns and processes of food web structure in grasslands, we compiled data from published studies on the relationship between precipitation (which is a predictor of primary productivity in grasslands), plant and herbivore standing crop biomass, and the results of large-herbivore exclosure experiments on plant abundance and composition. Three informative patterns emerged: (1) both producer and herbivore biomass increase across a natural precipitation gradient; (2) the relative effect of large herbivores on plant biomass, inferred from exclosure studies, decreases with increasing precipitation; and (3) the effect of herbivores on changes in plant species composition increases with precipitation. Simple resource-controlled and consumer-controlled food chain models can explain different subsets of these patterns. However, models of heterogeneous food webs that incorporate differences among species within trophic levels, and compositional turnover within such trophic levels, are consistent with all of the reviewed patterns. We suggest that this compositional turnover of plant species, combined with the interactive controlling effects of consumers and resources, may help to explain why studies performed in different areas, and with different methodologies, often draw different conclusions about the patterns and structuring processes in grassland ecosystems. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Ecology Ecological Society of America

THE EFFECTS OF PRODUCTIVITY, HERBIVORY, AND PLANT SPECIES TURNOVER IN GRASSLAND FOOD WEBS

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Publisher
Ecological Society of America
Copyright
Copyright © 2000 by the Ecological Society of America
Subject
Articles
ISSN
0012-9658
D.O.I.
10.1890/0012-9658%282000%29081%5B2485:TEOPHA%5D2.0.CO%3B2
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

In order to evaluate the patterns and processes of food web structure in grasslands, we compiled data from published studies on the relationship between precipitation (which is a predictor of primary productivity in grasslands), plant and herbivore standing crop biomass, and the results of large-herbivore exclosure experiments on plant abundance and composition. Three informative patterns emerged: (1) both producer and herbivore biomass increase across a natural precipitation gradient; (2) the relative effect of large herbivores on plant biomass, inferred from exclosure studies, decreases with increasing precipitation; and (3) the effect of herbivores on changes in plant species composition increases with precipitation. Simple resource-controlled and consumer-controlled food chain models can explain different subsets of these patterns. However, models of heterogeneous food webs that incorporate differences among species within trophic levels, and compositional turnover within such trophic levels, are consistent with all of the reviewed patterns. We suggest that this compositional turnover of plant species, combined with the interactive controlling effects of consumers and resources, may help to explain why studies performed in different areas, and with different methodologies, often draw different conclusions about the patterns and structuring processes in grassland ecosystems.

Journal

EcologyEcological Society of America

Published: Sep 1, 2000

Keywords: compositional turnover ; consumer control ; food web ; grasslands ; herbivore exclosure ; herbivory ; heterogeneous food web models ; plant defense ; primary productivity ; resource control

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