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Science ; 383(6682): 531-537, 2024 Feb 02.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-38301018


Large mammalian herbivores (megafauna) have experienced extinctions and declines since prehistory. Introduced megafauna have partly counteracted these losses yet are thought to have unusually negative effects on plants compared with native megafauna. Using a meta-analysis of 3995 plot-scale plant abundance and diversity responses from 221 studies, we found no evidence that megafauna impacts were shaped by nativeness, "invasiveness," "feralness," coevolutionary history, or functional and phylogenetic novelty. Nor was there evidence that introduced megafauna facilitate introduced plants more than native megafauna. Instead, we found strong evidence that functional traits shaped megafauna impacts, with larger-bodied and bulk-feeding megafauna promoting plant diversity. Our work suggests that trait-based ecology provides better insight into interactions between megafauna and plants than do concepts of nativeness.

Ecossistema , Extinção Biológica , Herbivoria , Espécies Introduzidas , Mamíferos , Plantas , Animais , Ecologia , Herbivoria/fisiologia , Filogenia , Conservação dos Recursos Naturais
Nat Ecol Evol ; 8(4): 705-716, 2024 Apr.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-38337048


Megafauna (animals ≥45 kg) have probably shaped the Earth's terrestrial ecosystems for millions of years with pronounced impacts on biogeochemistry, vegetation, ecological communities and evolutionary processes. However, a quantitative global synthesis on the generality of megafauna effects on ecosystems is lacking. Here we conducted a meta-analysis of 297 studies and 5,990 individual observations across six continents to determine how wild herbivorous megafauna influence ecosystem structure, ecological processes and spatial heterogeneity, and whether these impacts depend on body size and environmental factors. Despite large variability in megafauna effects, we show that megafauna significantly alter soil nutrient availability, promote open vegetation structure and reduce the abundance of smaller animals. Other responses (14 out of 26), including, for example, soil carbon, were not significantly affected. Further, megafauna significantly increase ecosystem heterogeneity by affecting spatial heterogeneity in vegetation structure and the abundance and diversity of smaller animals. Given that spatial heterogeneity is considered an important driver of biodiversity across taxonomic groups and scales, these results support the hypothesis that megafauna may promote biodiversity at large scales. Megafauna declined precipitously in diversity and abundance since the late Pleistocene, and our results indicate that their restoration would substantially influence Earth's terrestrial ecosystems.

Ecossistema , Herbivoria , Animais , Biodiversidade , Solo , Evolução Biológica