Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2013.10.025
Title (Primary) Modelling the effect of belowground herbivory on grassland diversity
Author Körner, K.; Pfestorf, H.; May, F.; Jeltsch, F.
Journal Ecological Modelling
Year 2014
Department OESA
Volume 273
Page From 79
Page To 85
Language englisch
Keywords Belowground herbivory; Individual based simulation model; Plant functional types; Species coexistence; IBC-grass model; ODD protocol
UFZ wide themes RU5;

One challenging question in ecology is to explain species coexistence in highly diverse temperate grassland plant communities. Within this context, a clear understanding of the consequences of belowground herbivory for the composition and the diversity of plant communities continue to elude ecologists. The existing body of empirical evidence reveals partly contradictory responses ranging from negative to neutral or positive effects of belowground herbivory on grassland diversity.

To reveal possible mechanistic grounds for these discrepancies, we extended an existing simulation model of grassland communities based on plant functional types to include root herbivory. This enabled us to test the effects of different feeding modes that represent different herbivore guilds. For each belowground feeding mode, we systematically varied the intensity and frequency of herbivory events for three different levels of soil fertility both in the presence and absence of additional aboveground grazing.

Our modelling approach successfully reproduced various empirically reported diversity responses, merely on the basis of the different feeding modes. Different levels of plant resource availability affected the strength, but not the direction of the belowground herbivory effects. The only exception was the scenario with low resource levels, which promoted neutral (neither positive nor negative) diversity responses for some of the feeding modes. Interestingly, aboveground biomass production was largely unaffected by diversity changes induced by belowground herbivory except in the case of selective feeding modes that were related to specific functional traits.

Our findings provide possible explanations for the broad spectrum of belowground herbivory effects on plant community diversity. Furthermore, the presented theoretical modelling approach provides a suitable conceptual framework to better understand the complex linkage between plant community and belowground herbivory dynamics.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Körner, K., Pfestorf, H., May, F., Jeltsch, F. (2014):
Modelling the effect of belowground herbivory on grassland diversity
Ecol. Model. 273 , 79 - 85