Grassland arthropods are controlled by direct and indirect interactions with cattle but are largely unaffected by plant provenance

Kelly Anne Farrell, W. Stanley Harpole, Claudia Stein, Katharine N. Suding, Elizabeth T. Borer

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14 Scopus citations


Cattle grazing and invasion by non-native plant species are globally-ubiquitous changes occurring to plant communities that are likely to reverberate through whole food webs. We used a manipulative field experiment to quantify how arthropod community structure differed in native and non-native California grassland communities in the presence and absence of grazing. The arthropod community was strongly affected by cattle grazing: the biovolume of herbivorous arthropods was 79% higher in grazed than ungrazed plots, whereas the biovolume of predatory arthropods was 13% higher in ungrazed plots. In plots where non-native grasses were grazed, arthropod biovolume increased, possibly in response to increased plant productivity or increased nutritional quality of rapidly-growing annual plants. Grazing may thus affect plant biomass both through the direct removal of biomass, and through arthropod-mediated impacts. We also expected the arthropod community to differ between native and non-native plant communities; surprisingly, arthropod richness and diversity did not vary consistently between these grass community types, although arthropod abundance was slightly higher in plots with native and ungrazed grasses. These results suggest that whereas cattle grazing affects the arthropod community via direct and indirect pathways, arthropod community changes commonly associated with non-native plant invasions may not be due to the identity or dominance of the invasive species in those systems, but to accompanying changes in plant traits or functional group composition, not seen in this experiment because of the similarity of the plant communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0129823
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 9 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Fujii et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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