The presence of sheep leads to increases in plant diversity and reductions in the impact of deer on heather

Jane Louise Degabriel, Steve D. Albon, Deborah A. Fielding, David J. Riach, Sally Westaway, R. Justin Irvine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

1. Grazing has been implicated in the decline of heather-dominated moorlands in Britain, but there has been little consideration of the effects of different species of herbivores on plant diversity. Sheep stocks have recently decreased in Scotland, and quantification of how this affects biodiversity is essential for understanding how different grazing regimes modify upland habitats.

2. We investigated the effects of grazing on plant biodiversity in heather/grass mosaics at 16 upland sites in Scotland. Red deer Cervus elaphus L. were present at all sites, but sheep Ovis aries L. had been removed from half of the sites. Our experimental design incorporated replication at three spatial scales, from a landscape level down to 10 × 10 m plots.

3. We quantified the relative effects of different herbivore species, vegetation structure and rainfall on heather utilisation, species richness and evenness (alpha diversity; Shannon–Wiener index) and beta diversity.

4. At all spatial scales, deer dung counts were higher and heather was shorter when sheep were absent. Furthermore, utilisation of heather was positively correlated with the amount of deer dung, the amount of grass present and smooth grass height.

5. Alpha diversity was consistently positively correlated with the relative amount of grass, but was also positively related to the amount of sheep dung at the largest spatial scale. At the finest scale, alpha diversity was negatively correlated with the amount of deer dung. Beta diversity was higher when sheep were present at all scales.

6. Synthesis and applications. Mixed grazing by sheep and deer appears to be beneficial for increasing both alpha and beta diversity and minimizing damage to heather in the uplands. The absence of sheep is likely to result in expanding deer populations and greater impact on heather. Management of grazing herbivores is an important tool for maintaining biodiversity in many ecosystems. Our results indicate that reducing livestock may alter the impacts of wild grazers on their habitats and drive changes in diversity, whereas mixed grazing can enhance habitat quality and maintain plant diversity. Therefore, this effect should be considered when devising policy recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1269-1277
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Volume48
Issue number5
Early online date4 Aug 2011
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Fingerprint

sheep
deer
grazing
grass
herbivore
biodiversity
species evenness
moorland
vegetation structure
habitat quality
experimental design
livestock
species richness
rainfall
damage
effect
ecosystem
habitat

Keywords

  • alpha diversity
  • beta diversity
  • biodiversity
  • Cervus elaphus
  • grazing
  • habitat management
  • heather
  • Ovis aries
  • spatial

Cite this

Degabriel, J. L., Albon, S. D., Fielding, D. A., Riach, D. J., Westaway, S., & Irvine, R. J. (2011). The presence of sheep leads to increases in plant diversity and reductions in the impact of deer on heather. Journal of Applied Ecology, 48(5), 1269-1277. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02032.x

The presence of sheep leads to increases in plant diversity and reductions in the impact of deer on heather. / Degabriel, Jane Louise; Albon, Steve D.; Fielding, Deborah A.; Riach, David J.; Westaway, Sally; Irvine, R. Justin.

In: Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol. 48, No. 5, 2011, p. 1269-1277.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Degabriel, Jane Louise ; Albon, Steve D. ; Fielding, Deborah A. ; Riach, David J. ; Westaway, Sally ; Irvine, R. Justin. / The presence of sheep leads to increases in plant diversity and reductions in the impact of deer on heather. In: Journal of Applied Ecology. 2011 ; Vol. 48, No. 5. pp. 1269-1277.
@article{4bf9d357b8c642d1ad85f524ca5e832f,
title = "The presence of sheep leads to increases in plant diversity and reductions in the impact of deer on heather",
abstract = "1. Grazing has been implicated in the decline of heather-dominated moorlands in Britain, but there has been little consideration of the effects of different species of herbivores on plant diversity. Sheep stocks have recently decreased in Scotland, and quantification of how this affects biodiversity is essential for understanding how different grazing regimes modify upland habitats. 2. We investigated the effects of grazing on plant biodiversity in heather/grass mosaics at 16 upland sites in Scotland. Red deer Cervus elaphus L. were present at all sites, but sheep Ovis aries L. had been removed from half of the sites. Our experimental design incorporated replication at three spatial scales, from a landscape level down to 10 × 10 m plots. 3. We quantified the relative effects of different herbivore species, vegetation structure and rainfall on heather utilisation, species richness and evenness (alpha diversity; Shannon–Wiener index) and beta diversity. 4. At all spatial scales, deer dung counts were higher and heather was shorter when sheep were absent. Furthermore, utilisation of heather was positively correlated with the amount of deer dung, the amount of grass present and smooth grass height. 5. Alpha diversity was consistently positively correlated with the relative amount of grass, but was also positively related to the amount of sheep dung at the largest spatial scale. At the finest scale, alpha diversity was negatively correlated with the amount of deer dung. Beta diversity was higher when sheep were present at all scales. 6. Synthesis and applications. Mixed grazing by sheep and deer appears to be beneficial for increasing both alpha and beta diversity and minimizing damage to heather in the uplands. The absence of sheep is likely to result in expanding deer populations and greater impact on heather. Management of grazing herbivores is an important tool for maintaining biodiversity in many ecosystems. Our results indicate that reducing livestock may alter the impacts of wild grazers on their habitats and drive changes in diversity, whereas mixed grazing can enhance habitat quality and maintain plant diversity. Therefore, this effect should be considered when devising policy recommendations.",
keywords = "alpha diversity, beta diversity, biodiversity, Cervus elaphus, grazing, habitat management, heather, Ovis aries, spatial",
author = "Degabriel, {Jane Louise} and Albon, {Steve D.} and Fielding, {Deborah A.} and Riach, {David J.} and Sally Westaway and Irvine, {R. Justin}",
year = "2011",
doi = "10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02032.x",
language = "English",
volume = "48",
pages = "1269--1277",
journal = "Journal of Applied Ecology",
issn = "0021-8901",
publisher = "Wiley",
number = "5",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The presence of sheep leads to increases in plant diversity and reductions in the impact of deer on heather

AU - Degabriel, Jane Louise

AU - Albon, Steve D.

AU - Fielding, Deborah A.

AU - Riach, David J.

AU - Westaway, Sally

AU - Irvine, R. Justin

PY - 2011

Y1 - 2011

N2 - 1. Grazing has been implicated in the decline of heather-dominated moorlands in Britain, but there has been little consideration of the effects of different species of herbivores on plant diversity. Sheep stocks have recently decreased in Scotland, and quantification of how this affects biodiversity is essential for understanding how different grazing regimes modify upland habitats. 2. We investigated the effects of grazing on plant biodiversity in heather/grass mosaics at 16 upland sites in Scotland. Red deer Cervus elaphus L. were present at all sites, but sheep Ovis aries L. had been removed from half of the sites. Our experimental design incorporated replication at three spatial scales, from a landscape level down to 10 × 10 m plots. 3. We quantified the relative effects of different herbivore species, vegetation structure and rainfall on heather utilisation, species richness and evenness (alpha diversity; Shannon–Wiener index) and beta diversity. 4. At all spatial scales, deer dung counts were higher and heather was shorter when sheep were absent. Furthermore, utilisation of heather was positively correlated with the amount of deer dung, the amount of grass present and smooth grass height. 5. Alpha diversity was consistently positively correlated with the relative amount of grass, but was also positively related to the amount of sheep dung at the largest spatial scale. At the finest scale, alpha diversity was negatively correlated with the amount of deer dung. Beta diversity was higher when sheep were present at all scales. 6. Synthesis and applications. Mixed grazing by sheep and deer appears to be beneficial for increasing both alpha and beta diversity and minimizing damage to heather in the uplands. The absence of sheep is likely to result in expanding deer populations and greater impact on heather. Management of grazing herbivores is an important tool for maintaining biodiversity in many ecosystems. Our results indicate that reducing livestock may alter the impacts of wild grazers on their habitats and drive changes in diversity, whereas mixed grazing can enhance habitat quality and maintain plant diversity. Therefore, this effect should be considered when devising policy recommendations.

AB - 1. Grazing has been implicated in the decline of heather-dominated moorlands in Britain, but there has been little consideration of the effects of different species of herbivores on plant diversity. Sheep stocks have recently decreased in Scotland, and quantification of how this affects biodiversity is essential for understanding how different grazing regimes modify upland habitats. 2. We investigated the effects of grazing on plant biodiversity in heather/grass mosaics at 16 upland sites in Scotland. Red deer Cervus elaphus L. were present at all sites, but sheep Ovis aries L. had been removed from half of the sites. Our experimental design incorporated replication at three spatial scales, from a landscape level down to 10 × 10 m plots. 3. We quantified the relative effects of different herbivore species, vegetation structure and rainfall on heather utilisation, species richness and evenness (alpha diversity; Shannon–Wiener index) and beta diversity. 4. At all spatial scales, deer dung counts were higher and heather was shorter when sheep were absent. Furthermore, utilisation of heather was positively correlated with the amount of deer dung, the amount of grass present and smooth grass height. 5. Alpha diversity was consistently positively correlated with the relative amount of grass, but was also positively related to the amount of sheep dung at the largest spatial scale. At the finest scale, alpha diversity was negatively correlated with the amount of deer dung. Beta diversity was higher when sheep were present at all scales. 6. Synthesis and applications. Mixed grazing by sheep and deer appears to be beneficial for increasing both alpha and beta diversity and minimizing damage to heather in the uplands. The absence of sheep is likely to result in expanding deer populations and greater impact on heather. Management of grazing herbivores is an important tool for maintaining biodiversity in many ecosystems. Our results indicate that reducing livestock may alter the impacts of wild grazers on their habitats and drive changes in diversity, whereas mixed grazing can enhance habitat quality and maintain plant diversity. Therefore, this effect should be considered when devising policy recommendations.

KW - alpha diversity

KW - beta diversity

KW - biodiversity

KW - Cervus elaphus

KW - grazing

KW - habitat management

KW - heather

KW - Ovis aries

KW - spatial

U2 - 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02032.x

DO - 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02032.x

M3 - Article

VL - 48

SP - 1269

EP - 1277

JO - Journal of Applied Ecology

JF - Journal of Applied Ecology

SN - 0021-8901

IS - 5

ER -