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Data from: Progressively excluding mammals of different body size affects community and trait structure of ground beetles

Citation

Wang, Xiaowei et al. (2018), Data from: Progressively excluding mammals of different body size affects community and trait structure of ground beetles, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.q5f2j75

Abstract

Mammalian grazing induces changes in vegetation properties in grasslands, which can affect a wide variety of other animals including many arthropods. However, the impacts may depend on the type and body size of these mammals. Furthermore, how mammals influence functional trait syndromes of arthropod communities is not well known. We progressively excluded large (e.g. red deer, chamois), medium (e.g. alpine marmot, mountain hare), and small (e.g. mice) mammals using size-selective fences in two vegetation types (short- and tall-grass vegetation) of subalpine grasslands. We then assessed how these exclusions affected the community composition and functional traits of ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae), and which vegetation characteristic mediated the observed effects. Total carabid biomass, the activity densities of carabids with specific traits (i.e. small eyes, short wings), the richness of small-eyed species and the richness of herbivorous species were significantly higher when certain mammals were excluded compared to when all mammals had access, regardless of vegetation type. Excluding large and medium mammals increased the activity density of herbivorous carabid species, but only in short-grass vegetation. Similarly, excluding large mammals (ungulates) altered carabid species composition in the short-, but not in the tall-grass vegetation. All these responses were related to aboveground plant biomass, but not to plant Shannon diversity or vegetation structural heterogeneity. Our results indicate that changes in aboveground plant biomass are key drivers of mammalian grazers’ influence on carabids, suggesting that bottom-up forces are important in subalpine grassland systems. The exclusion of ungulates provoked the strongest carabid response. Our results, however, also highlight the ecological significance of smaller herbivorous mammals. Our study furthermore shows that mammalian grazing not only altered carabid community composition, but also caused community-wide functional trait shifts, which could potentially have a wider impact on species interactions and ecosystem functioning.

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Location

southeastern Switzerland