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Data from: Mammal-induced trophic cascades in invertebrate food webs are modulated by grazing intensity in subalpine grassland


Vandegehuchte, Martijn L.; Schütz, Martin; de Schaetzen, Frederic; Risch, Anita C. (2017), Data from: Mammal-induced trophic cascades in invertebrate food webs are modulated by grazing intensity in subalpine grassland, Dryad, Dataset,


1. Even though mammalian herbivores can exert strong indirect effects on other animals by altering the vegetation, the study of trophic cascades retains a focus on apex predators and their top-down forces. Bottom-up trophic interaction chains induced by mammalian herbivores, particularly in invertebrate food webs, remain largely unexplored. 2. We tested whether effects of mammalian herbivores on the vegetation ricochet back up several trophic levels of the invertebrate food web. We further tested two alternative hypotheses: the strength of herbivore-induced indirect interactions either increases with plant productivity because of a concurrent higher grazing intensity, or it decreases because of a higher plant tolerance to grazing. 3. We progressively excluded large, medium, and small herbivorous mammals from replicated plots of 6 m2 in productive, intensively grazed short-grass vegetation and less productive, less intensively grazed tall-grass vegetation of subalpine grasslands. We measured vegetation quantity, quality, structure, and composition, and determined the abundance of invertebrate herbivores, detritivores, omnivores, and predators. We used Structural Equation Modelling to test vegetation-mediated cascading effects of the different mammalian herbivores across different trophic groups of invertebrates. 4. In the short-grass vegetation, mammals caused changes in vegetation quantity and thickness. These changes directly affected detritivorous and predatory invertebrate abundance, yet indirectly affected predatory and omnivorous invertebrates through a bottom-up trophic cascade via changes in herbivorous invertebrate abundance. In the tall-grass vegetation, mammal-induced changes in vegetation quality and composition affected detritivorous invertebrates and in turn omnivorous invertebrates, but these cascading effects were weaker than those in the short-grass vegetation. Smaller mammals were at least as important as large mammals in structuring the invertebrate food web. 5. Our results demonstrate that differently sized mammalian herbivores can trigger trophic cascades in the local invertebrate food web. Our findings further support the hypothesis that herbivore-induced indirect interactions are stronger in more productive systems because of higher foraging intensity, as opposed to the hypothesis that a higher grazing tolerance of plants should dampen herbivore-induced indirect interactions in productive systems.

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