A generalized model of the effects of grazing by large herbivores on grassland community structure

D. G. Milchunas, O. E. Sala, W. K. Lauenroth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

907 Scopus citations

Abstract

Grazing history alone is not a good predictor of plant-herbivore interactions. Interactions occur along gradients of convergent to divergent selection pressures with increasing environmental moisture and of intolerance to tolerance of grazing with increasingly long evolutionary histories of grazing. Feedback mechanisms between plants and grazing animals are well developed in grasslands with long evolutionary histories of grazing. Feedback mechanisms are manifest in the rapid switching capabilities (of plant species and modes of competition) of subhumid grasslands with long evolutionary histories of grazing and divergent selection pressures. Switching capabilities do not exist in semiarid grasslands with long evolutionary histories of grazing and convergent selection pressures. Rather, for heavily grazed dominant species dominance increases. Feedback mechanisms are not well developed in systems with short evolutionary histories of grazing. Here, differences in response to grazing by semiarid and subhumid situations arise primarily from differences in the grazing tolerance of plants adapted to semiaridity or of plants adapted to competition for light and from the different effects of grazing on canopy structure. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-106
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume132
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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