4 years ago

Interactions count: plant origin, herbivory and disturbance jointly explain seedling recruitment and community structure

Isabell Hensen, Helge Bruelheide, Harald Auge, Birgit R. Lang, Lotte Korell
Herbivory and disturbance are major drivers of biological invasions, but it is unclear how they interact to determine exotic vs. native seedling recruitment and what consequences arise for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Previous studies neglected the roles of different, potentially interacting, guilds of generalist herbivores such as rodents and gastropods. We therefore set up a full-factorial rodent exclusion x gastropod exclusion x disturbance x seed-addition experiment in a grassland community in Central Germany and measured early seedling recruitment, as well as species richness, species composition and aboveground biomass. Gastropod herbivory reduced the positive effect of disturbance on seedling recruitment, particularly for exotic species. Rodent herbivory had weak positive effects on seedling recruitment at undisturbed sites, irrespective of species origin. This effect was likely driven by their strong negative effect on productivity. Interactive effects between both herbivore guilds became only evident for species richness and composition. How many species established themselves depended on disturbance, but was independent of species origin. The fewer exotic species that established themselves increased productivity to a stronger extent compared to native species. Our study highlights that joint effects of disturbance, herbivory and species origin shape early recruitment, while they only weakly affect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

Publisher URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-08401-3

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-08401-3

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