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1 October 2014 Bison Grazing Increases Arthropod Abundance and Diversity in a Tallgrass Prairie
Matthew D. Moran
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How grazing-induced ecosystem changes by ungulates indirectly affect other consumers is a question of great interest. I investigated the effect of grazing by American Bison (Bos bison L.) on an arthropod community in tallgrass prairie. Grazing increased the abundance of arthropods, an increase that was present in both herbivorous and carnivorous assemblages, but not in detritivores. The increase in herbivores and reduction in plant biomass from grazing resulted in an arthropod herbivore load almost three times higher in grazed plots compared with controls. Among herbivores, the sap-feeding insect guild was dramatically more abundant, while chewing herbivores were not affected. Herbivorous and carnivorous arthropod richness was higher in grazed plots, although the response was strongest among herbivores. Arthropod abundance on individual grasses and forbs was significantly higher in grazed areas, while plant type had no effect on abundance, indicating that the change was ecosystem-wide and not simply in response to a reduction in grass biomass from grazing. The response of arthropods to grazing was strongest in the early part of the growing season. Published research shows that ungulate grazing, although decreasing available biomass to other consumers, enhances plant quality by increasing nitrogen level in plants.Thearthropod results of this study suggest higher plant quality outweighs the potential negative competitive effects of plant biomass removal, although other activities of bison could not be ruled out as the causative mechanism. Because arthropods are extremely abundant organisms in grasslands and a food source for other consumers, bison may represent valuable management tools for maintaining biodiversity.

© 2014 Entomological Society of America
Matthew D. Moran "Bison Grazing Increases Arthropod Abundance and Diversity in a Tallgrass Prairie," Environmental Entomology 43(5), 1174-1184, (1 October 2014).
Received: 21 January 2014; Accepted: 23 June 2014; Published: 1 October 2014

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arthropod community
Bos bison
herbivore load
tallgrass prairie
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