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Population of North American elk: effects on plant diversityAuthor(s): Kelley M. Stewart; R. Terry Bowyer; John G. Kier; Brian L. Dick; Roger W. Ruess
Source: Oecologia. 10 p.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
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DescriptionWe tested for indirect effects of population density of large herbivores on plant species richness and diversity in a montane ecosystem, where increased net aboveground primary productivity (NAPP) in response to low levels of herbivory has been reported. We documented a positive, linear relationship between plant-species diversity and richness with NAPP. Structural equation modeling revealed significant indirect relationships between population density of herbivores, NAPP, and species diversity.We observed an indirect effect of density-dependent processes in large, herbivorous mammals and species diversity of plants through changes in NAPP in this montane ecosystem. Changes in species diversity of plants in response to herbivory may be more indirect in ecosystems with long histories of herbivory. Those subtle or indirect effects of herbivory may have strong effects on ecosystem functioning, but may be overlooked in plant communities that are relatively resilient to herbivory.
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CitationStewart, K.M.; Bowyer, R.T.; Kier, J.G.; Dick, B.L.; Ruess, R.W. 2009. Population of North American elk: effects on plant diversity. Oecologia. 10 p.
KeywordsNorth American elk, herbivore optimization, NAPP, species diversity, species richness, structural equation models
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