• A personal note on IGBP and the social sciences

    Humans are an integral component of the Earth system as conceptualised by IGBP. João Morais recalls key milestones in IGBP’s engagement with the social sciences and offers some words of advice for Future Earth.
  • IGBP and Earth observation:
    a co-evolution

    The iconic images of Earth beamed back by the earliest spacecraft helped to galvanise interest in our planet’s environment. The subsequent evolution and development of satellites for Earth observation has been intricately linked with that of IGBP and other global-change research programmes, write Jack Kaye and Cat Downy .

Plant trait responses to grazing - a global synthesis

Global Change Biology (2007)
Díaz S, Lavorel S, McIntyre S, Falczuk V, Casanoves F, Milchunas D, Skarpe C, Rusch G, Sternberg M, Noy-Meir I, Landsberg J, Zangh W, Clark H and Campbell B D
Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01288.x
Vol 13; Issue 2; pp. 313-341

Herbivory by domestic and wild ungulates is a major driver of global vegetation dynamics. However, grazing is not considered in dynamic global vegetation models, or more generally in studies of the effects of environmental change on ecosystems at regional to global scale. An obstacle to this is a lack of empirical tests of several hypotheses linking plant traits with grazing. We, therefore, set out to test whether some widely recognized trait responses to grazing are consistent at the global level. We conducted a meta-analysis of plant trait responses to grazing, based on 197 studies from all major regions of the world, and using six major conceptual models of trait response to grazing as a framework. Data were available for seven plant traits: life history, canopy height, habit, architecture, growth form (forb, graminoid, herbaceous legume, woody), palatability, and geographic origin. Covariates were precipitation and evolutionary history of herbivory. Overall, grazing favoured annual over perennial plants, short plants over tall plants, prostrate over erect plants, and stoloniferous and rosette architecture over tussock architecture. There was no consistent effect of grazing on growth form. Some response patterns were modified by particular combinations of precipitation and history of herbivory. Climatic and historical contexts are therefore essential for understanding plant trait responses to grazing. Our study identifies some key traits to be incorporated into plant functional classifications for the explicit consideration of grazing into global vegetation models used in global change research. Importantly, our results suggest that plant functional type classifications and response rules need to be specific to regions with different climate and herbivory history.

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