Herbivory and nutrients shape grassland soil seed banks

Anu Eskelinen, Maria Theresa Jessen, Hector A. Bahamonde, Jonathan D. Bakker, Elizabeth T. Borer, Maria C. Caldeira, W. Stanley Harpole, Meiyu Jia, Luciola S. Lannes, Carla Nogueira, Harry Olde Venterink, Pablo L. Peri, Anita J. Porath-Krause, Eric W. Seabloom, Katie Schroeder, Pedro M. Tognetti, Simone Louise E. Yasui, Risto Virtanen, Lauren L. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic nutrient enrichment and shifts in herbivory can lead to dramatic changes in the composition and diversity of aboveground plant communities. In turn, this can alter seed banks in the soil, which are cryptic reservoirs of plant diversity. Here, we use data from seven Nutrient Network grassland sites on four continents, encompassing a range of climatic and environmental conditions, to test the joint effects of fertilization and aboveground mammalian herbivory on seed banks and on the similarity between aboveground plant communities and seed banks. We find that fertilization decreases plant species richness and diversity in seed banks, and homogenizes composition between aboveground and seed bank communities. Fertilization increases seed bank abundance especially in the presence of herbivores, while this effect is smaller in the absence of herbivores. Our findings highlight that nutrient enrichment can weaken a diversity maintaining mechanism in grasslands, and that herbivory needs to be considered when assessing nutrient enrichment effects on seed bank abundance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3949
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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