HN Research Highlights

Biotic interactions mediate patterns of herbivore diversity in the Arctic

We are very happy to announce the recent publication of a study on the drivers of vertebrate herbivore diversity in the Arctic. This paper is the result of one of the first collective efforts of the Herbivory Network.

barrio-mapUnderstanding the forces that shape biodiversity is essential for improving our ability to predict the responses of ecosystems to rapid, ongoing environmental change.  In the Arctic, herbivores often play a key role in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.  The diversity of herbivores varies across the Arctic, and until now, no one knew whether this was shaped by physical environmental factors, like temperature, or biotic factors, such as plant productivity.

We collected information on the distribution of all 73 species of vertebrate herbivores that occur in the Arctic.  Vertebrate herbivores are particularly important as they affect the structure and dynamics of plant communities and provide food for higher trophic-level predators.  The results of this study showed that herbivore diversity in the Arctic is higher in areas with greater plant productivity and with higher diversity of predators.  The interactions between plants, herbivores and predators, occurred over large spatial scales across the Arctic, in ecosystems where patterns of biodiversity were supposed to be affected mainly by temperature variation.

Full reference and link:

Isabel C Barrio, C Guillermo Bueno, Maite Gartzia, Eeva M Soininen, Katie S Christie, James D M Speed, Virve T Ravolainen, Bruce C Forbes, Gilles Gauthier, Tim Horstkotte, Katrine S Hoset, Toke T Høye, Ingibjörg Svala Jónsdóttir, Esther Lévesque, Martin A Mörsdorf, Johan Olofsson, Philip A Wookey and David S Hik (in press) Biotic interactions mediate patterns of herbivore diversity in the Arctic. Global Ecology and Biogeography DOI: 10.1111/geb.12470

Herbivory Network: An international, collaborative effort to study herbivory in Arctic and alpine ecosystems

This paper summarizes the need for herbivory studies and presents the protocols designed by the Herbivory network.

Plant-herbivore interactions are central to the functioning of tundra ecosystems, but their outcomes vary over space and time. Accurate forecasting of ecosystem responses to ongoing environmental changes requires a better understanding of the processes responsible for this heterogeneity. To effectively address this complexity at a global scale, coordinated research efforts, including multi-site comparisons within and across disciplines, are needed. The Herbivory Network was established as a forum for researchers from Arctic and alpine regions to collaboratively investigate the multifunctional role of herbivores in these changing ecosystems. One of the priorities is to integrate sites, methodologies, and metrics used in previous work, to develop a set of common protocols and design long-term geographically-balanced, coordinated experiments. The implementation of these collaborative research efforts will also improve our understanding of traditional human-managed systems that encompass significant portions of the sub-Arctic and alpine areas worldwide. A deeper understanding of the role of herbivory in these systems under ongoing environmental changes will guide appropriate adaptive strategies to preserve their natural values and related ecosystem services.

Barrio, IC, DS Hik, IS Jónsdóttir, CG Bueno, MA Mörsdorfa, VT Ravolainen. 2016. Herbivory Network: An international, collaborative effort to study herbivory in Arctic and alpine ecosystems. Polar Science 10: 297-302.