The cascading impacts of livestock grazing in upland ecosystems: a 10-year experiment

Darren M. Evans, Nacho Villar, Nick A. Littlewood, Robin J. Pakeman, Sharon A. Evans, Peter Dennis, John Skartveit, Steve M Redpath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Livestock grazing is a major driver of land-use change, causing significant biodiversity loss globally. Although the short-term effects of livestock grazing on individual species are well studied, a mechanistic understanding of the long-term, cascading impacts is lacking. We manipulated livestock densities using a unique, replicated upland experiment over a 10-year period and found significant effects of grazing treatment on plant and arthropod biomass; the number of Anthus pratensis breeding bird territories; the amplitude of Microtus agrestis population cycles and the activity of a top predator, Vulpes vulpes. Lower plant biomass as a result of higher stocking densities led to cascades across trophic levels, with fewer arthropods and small mammals, the latter affecting predator activity. Breeding bird territories were a function of arthropod abundance and vegetation structure heterogeneity. Our results provide a novel food-web analysis in a grazing experiment to provide a mechanistic understanding of how food-webs in upland ecosystems respond to long-term livestock grazing pressure, with consequences for management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalEcosphere
Volume6
Issue number3
Early online date30 Mar 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

Keywords

  • agro-ecosystems
  • conservation
  • grassland
  • moorland
  • population cycles
  • trophic interactions
  • vole populations
  • alpine ecosystem
  • trait responses
  • farmland birds
  • sheep
  • management
  • dynamics
  • rodent
  • productivity

Cite this

Evans, D. M., Villar, N., Littlewood, N. A., Pakeman, R. J., Evans, S. A., Dennis, P., ... Redpath, S. M. (2015). The cascading impacts of livestock grazing in upland ecosystems: a 10-year experiment. Ecosphere, 6(3), 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00316.1

The cascading impacts of livestock grazing in upland ecosystems : a 10-year experiment. / Evans, Darren M.; Villar, Nacho; Littlewood, Nick A.; Pakeman, Robin J.; Evans, Sharon A.; Dennis, Peter; Skartveit, John; Redpath, Steve M.

In: Ecosphere, Vol. 6, No. 3, 03.2015, p. 1-15.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Evans, DM, Villar, N, Littlewood, NA, Pakeman, RJ, Evans, SA, Dennis, P, Skartveit, J & Redpath, SM 2015, 'The cascading impacts of livestock grazing in upland ecosystems: a 10-year experiment' Ecosphere, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00316.1
Evans DM, Villar N, Littlewood NA, Pakeman RJ, Evans SA, Dennis P et al. The cascading impacts of livestock grazing in upland ecosystems: a 10-year experiment. Ecosphere. 2015 Mar;6(3):1-15. https://doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00316.1
Evans, Darren M. ; Villar, Nacho ; Littlewood, Nick A. ; Pakeman, Robin J. ; Evans, Sharon A. ; Dennis, Peter ; Skartveit, John ; Redpath, Steve M. / The cascading impacts of livestock grazing in upland ecosystems : a 10-year experiment. In: Ecosphere. 2015 ; Vol. 6, No. 3. pp. 1-15.
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abstract = "Livestock grazing is a major driver of land-use change, causing significant biodiversity loss globally. Although the short-term effects of livestock grazing on individual species are well studied, a mechanistic understanding of the long-term, cascading impacts is lacking. We manipulated livestock densities using a unique, replicated upland experiment over a 10-year period and found significant effects of grazing treatment on plant and arthropod biomass; the number of Anthus pratensis breeding bird territories; the amplitude of Microtus agrestis population cycles and the activity of a top predator, Vulpes vulpes. Lower plant biomass as a result of higher stocking densities led to cascades across trophic levels, with fewer arthropods and small mammals, the latter affecting predator activity. Breeding bird territories were a function of arthropod abundance and vegetation structure heterogeneity. Our results provide a novel food-web analysis in a grazing experiment to provide a mechanistic understanding of how food-webs in upland ecosystems respond to long-term livestock grazing pressure, with consequences for management.",
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KW - grassland

KW - moorland

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KW - alpine ecosystem

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KW - farmland birds

KW - sheep

KW - management

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