Strong Responses of Subarctic Plant Communities to Long-Term Reindeer Feces Manipulation
2015 (English)In: Ecosystems (New York. Print), ISSN 1432-9840, E-ISSN 1435-0629, Vol. 18, no 5, 740-751 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Deposition of feces is a key mechanism by which herbivores influence soil nutrient cycling and plant production, but the knowledge about its importance for plant production and community structure is still rudimental since experimental evidence is scarce. We thus performed a 7-year long reindeer feces manipulation experiment in two tundra vegetation types with contrasting nutrient availability and analyzed effects on plant community composition and soil nutrient availability. Despite feces being fairly nutrient poor, feces manipulation had strong effect on both the nutrient-poor heath and the nutrient-rich meadow. The strongest effect was detected when feces were added at high density, with a substantial increase in total vascular plant productivity and graminoids in the two communities. Doubling natural deposition of reindeer feces enhanced primary production and the growth of deciduous shrubs in the heath. By contrast, removal of feces decreased only the production of graminoids and deciduous shrubs in the heath. Although the response to feces addition was faster in the nutrient-rich meadow, after 7 years it was more pronounced in the nutrient-poor heath. The effect of feces manipulation on soil nutrient availability was low and temporarily variable. Our study provides experimental evidence for a central role of herbivore feces in regulating primary production when herbivores are abundant enough. Deposition of feces alone does, however, not cause dramatic vegetation shifts; to drive unproductive heath to a productive grass dominated state, herbivore trampling, and grazing are probably also needed.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2015. Vol. 18, no 5, 740-751 p.
alpine meadow, feces fertilization, forage quality, plant-herbivore interactions, microbial mobilization, plant productivity, reindeer grazing, soil nutrient availability, tundra heath
Ecology Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-106774DOI: 10.1007/s10021-015-9856-yISI: 000358089100002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-106774DiVA: diva2:846146