Effects of Mammalian Herbivory on Plant Community Assemblage in Semi-Arid Grasslands
The encroachment of native woody shrubs into semi-arid grasslands has been a well documented and conspicuous ecological shift in the southwest that has taken place over the last two centuries. Research in this area has provided evidence that these changes may be driven by multiple mechanisms, such as fire suppression, grazing, and shifting climates. It has also been demonstrated that herbivores can have significant role in altering plant community assemblages and community patterns.
In my research, I hope to investigate the influence that the herbivore community has in influencing plant community patterns in order to better understand the dynamics that regulate plant communities in arid ecosystems. My project site is located within the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed, which is managed by the USDA-ARS. I will manipulate herbivore access to planting treatments to explore how the plant community responds to herbivore pressure.