, Volume 84, Issue 2, pp 169–175 | Cite as

Effects of small mammal and invertebrate herbivory on plant species richness and abundance in tallgrass prairie

  • David J. Gibson
  • Craig C. Freeman
  • Lloyd C. Hulbert
Original Papers


A factorial field experiment was designed to test the effects of small mammals and above- and below-ground invertebrates on plant species richness and composition in native tallgrass prairie at Konza Prairie Research Natural Area, northeast Kansas. Over a 4-year period, Microtus ochrogaster densities were maintained by live-trapping in fenced plots, and invertebrate levels were reduced using the pesticides carbaryl for above-ground invertebrates and an organophosphate (isofenphos) for belowground invertebrates. ANOVA according to a split-plot design of plant species biomass data harvested in 1984 and 1986 revealed few significant effects of either small mammal densities or pesticide application. Of 54 species harvested from both sample dates, only 10 were significantly affected by either treatment. Analysis of species richness according to 8 life-form classes provided a clearer pattern of response than did biomass either by species or life-form class. For example, numbers of C4 grasses were reduced by increasing small mammal densities, whereas numbers of C4 annual forbs were lowest when above-ground herbivory was reduced. While consumers have been shown to have strong effects on successional communities, the few significant results observed in this study suggests that the manipulated levels of small mammals and insects had few effects on a mature tallgrass prairie.

Key words

Herbivory Tallgrass prairie Small mammals Invertebrates Plant communities 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Gibson
    • 1
  • Craig C. Freeman
    • 1
  • Lloyd C. Hulbert
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of BiologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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