DOI: 10.1126/science.adh2616 ISSN: 0036-8075

Functional traits—not nativeness—shape the effects of large mammalian herbivores on plant communities

Erick J. Lundgren, Juraj Bergman, Jonas Trepel, Elizabeth le Roux, Sophie Monsarrat, Jeppe Aagaard Kristensen, Rasmus Østergaard Pedersen, Patricio Pereyra, Melanie Tietje, Jens-Christian Svenning
  • Multidisciplinary

Large mammalian herbivores (megafauna) have experienced extinctions and declines since prehistory. Introduced megafauna have partly counteracted these losses yet are thought to have unusually negative effects on plants compared with native megafauna. Using a meta-analysis of 3995 plot-scale plant abundance and diversity responses from 221 studies, we found no evidence that megafauna impacts were shaped by nativeness, “invasiveness,” “feralness,” coevolutionary history, or functional and phylogenetic novelty. Nor was there evidence that introduced megafauna facilitate introduced plants more than native megafauna. Instead, we found strong evidence that functional traits shaped megafauna impacts, with larger-bodied and bulk-feeding megafauna promoting plant diversity. Our work suggests that trait-based ecology provides better insight into interactions between megafauna and plants than do concepts of nativeness.

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