Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
AgriGenomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Grazing Animals ‘Rescue’ Biodiversity Threatened by Fertiliser

Published: Monday, March 10, 2014
Last Updated: Monday, March 10, 2014
Bookmark and Share
Damaging impacts of fertiliser offset by herbivorous grazers, whose actions enhance the amount of sunlight available to lots of precious species.

Two wrongs do not make a right. But when it comes to the biodiversity of plants in grasslands, they just might. That is because two apparently negative impacts often controlled by humans — the use of fertiliser and the grazing of plant species by herbivores — combine to the benefit of biodiversity. This is according to an innovative international study involving Yvonne Buckley, Professor of Zoology at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

The findings, just published in the online edition of leading journal Nature, are important in a world in which humans are changing both the distribution of herbivores and the supply of nutrients like nitrogen or phosphorus that act as fertilisers. The findings will have major implications for our understanding of the complex interplay among nutrients, herbivores and plant growth, which impacts our capacity to feed a growing human population and protect threatened species and ecosystems.

In a globally collaborative study, scientists used the Nutrient Network, or ‘NutNet’, to help predict how grasslands around the world will respond to a changing environment. NutNet is a grass-roots campaign supported by scientists who volunteer their time and resources. There are now 75 sites around the world that are run by more than 100 scientists. Professor Buckley will soon establish the first Irish site to add to NutNet’s growing catchment area.
In this study, NutNet scientists gathered data from 40 sites that spanned six continents. They set up research plots with and without added fertiliser, and with and without fences to keep out local herbivores such as deer, kangaroos, sheep and zebras. Every year since 2005, they have measured the amount of plant material grown, the amount of light reaching the ground, and the diversity of different plant species growing in the plots.
“We found that fertiliser reduced the diversity of plant species in the plots because species less able to tolerate a lack of light were literally overshadowed by fast-growing neighbours,” said Professor Buckley.
“But whenever herbivores increased the amount of light that struck the ground, by eating plants, the total plant species diversity increased. What was especially interesting – and convincing – was that these results held true from Australia to Europe, China and the US, and whether the herbivores involved were rabbits, sheep, elephants or kangaroos.”
The findings add a key piece to the puzzle of how human impacts affect prairies, savannas, alpine meadows and other grasslands. Biodiversity plays an important role in how resilient communities of plants and animals are in the face of change. So by showing how fertilisation, grazing, and biodiversity are linked, the research moves us one step closer to understanding what we can do to help keep grassland ecosystems and all of the services they provide healthy and thriving in a changing world.

“Global patterns of biodiversity have largely defied explanation due to many interacting, local driving forces,” added Henry Gholz, Program Director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the coordination of this research.
“These results show that grassland biodiversity is likely largely determined by the offsetting influences of nutrition and grazing on light capture by plants.”


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,400+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Elliot Meyerowitz Receives Trinity College Dublin Dawson Prize in Genetics
World-renowned plant biologist honoured for his contribution to genetics at Trinity.
Monday, December 09, 2013
Scientific News
Analysis of Dog Genome will Provide Insight into Human Disease
An important model in studying human disease, the non-coding RNA of the canine genome is an essential starting point for evolutionary and biomedical studies – according to a new study led by The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC).
Pathogen Takes Control of Gypsy Moth Populations
A new fungal pathogen is killing gypsy moth caterpillars and crowding out communities of pathogens and parasites that previously destroyed these moth pests.
Super Wheat Brought Closer to Reality
Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) and The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) have pioneered a new gene-detecting technology which, if deployed correctly could lead to the creation of a new elite variety of wheat with durable resistance to disease.
Mechanism Behind Plant Withering Clarified
Reproducing the reaction in which harmful reactive oxygen species are created during plant photosynthesis allows researchers to confirm the mechanism behind plant withering.
Sequencing the Salmon Genome
Researchers have established a “human” quality sequence of the Atlantic salmon genome that is now available online.
Improved Path to Cassava Production
Researchers have studied the genetic diversity of cassava, highlighting strategies to improve breeding programmes.
New Online Tool Helps Predict Gene Expression in Plants
Scientists at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) and The John Innes Centre have developed a free online tool that will help a global community of scientists understand more about important food crops.
Rare DNA Transfer Between Animals, Plants
Scientists identify rare DNA transfer between conifers and insects.
A Love Potion for Plant Fertilization
A group of scientists at Nagoya University has succeeded in discovering AMOR, a sugar chain molecule that increases the fertilization efficiency in plants.
How The Bat Got Its Wings
Finding may provide clues to human limb development and malformations.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,400+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!