Grassland type and seasonal effects have a bigger influence on plant functional and taxonomical diversity than prairie dog disturbances in semiarid grasslands

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung



Prairie dogs (Cynomys sp.) are considered keystone species and ecosystem engineers for their grazing and burrowing activities (summarized here as disturbances). As climate changes and its variability increases, the mechanisms underlying organisms' interactions with their habitat will likely shift. Understanding the mediating role of prairie dog disturbance on vegetation structure, and its interaction with environmental conditions through time, will increase knowledge on the risks and vulnerability of grasslands.
Here, we compared how plant taxonomical diversity, functional diversity metrics, and community-weighted trait means (CWM) respond to prairie dog C. mexicanus disturbance across grassland types and seasons (dry and wet) in a priority conservation semiarid grassland of Northeast Mexico.
Our findings suggest that functional metrics and CWM analyses responded to interactions between prairie dog disturbance, grassland type and season, whilst species diversity and cover measures were less sensitive to the role of prairie dog disturbance. We found weak evidence that prairie dog disturbance has a negative effect on vegetation structure, except for minimal effects on C4 and graminoid cover, but which depended mainly on season. Grassland type and season explained most of the effects on plant functional and taxonomic diversity as well as CWM traits. Furthermore, we found that leaf area as well as forb and annual cover increased during the wet season, independent of prairie dog disturbance.
Our results provide evidence that grassland type and season have a stronger effect than prairie dog disturbance on the vegetation of this short-grass, water-restricted grassland ecosystem. We argue that focusing solely on disturbance and grazing effects is misleading, and attention is needed on the relationships between vegetation and environmental conditions which will be critical to understand semiarid grassland dynamics under future climate change conditions in the region.


FachzeitschriftEcology and Evolution
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Juli 2022

Externe IDs

Scopus 85135009353
PubMed 35845363
WOS 000823979800001
Mendeley 2e9d9782-d41d-3cdb-a1ee-9c9ae1003b8b
ORCID /0000-0002-5510-0426/work/142249551


Ziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung


  • animal-plant interactions, disturbance, drylands, functional diversity, grassland ecosystems, plant diversity, prairie dogs, seasonal effects, Seasonal effects, Drylands, Functional diversity, Plant diversity, Prairie dogs, Grassland ecosystems, Disturbance, Animal-plant interactions