Large carnivores make savanna tree communities less thorny

Adam T. Ford, Jacob R. Goheen, Tobias O. Otieno, Laura Bidner, Lynne A. Isbell, Todd M. Palmer, David Ward, Rosie Woodroffe, Robert Mitchell Pringle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

97 Scopus citations

Abstract

Understanding how predation risk and plant defenses interactively shape plant distributions is a core challenge in ecology. By combining global positioning system telemetry of an abundant antelope (impala) and its main predators (leopards and wild dogs) with a series of manipulative field experiments, we showed that herbivores' risk-avoidance behavior and plants' antiherbivore defenses interact to determine tree distributions in an African savanna.Well-defended thorny Acacia trees (A. etbaica) were abundant in low-risk areas where impala aggregated but rare in high-risk areas that impala avoided. In contrast, poorly defended trees (A. brevispica) were more abundant in high- than in low-risk areas. Our results suggest that plants can persist in landscapes characterized by intense herbivory, either by defending themselves or by thriving in risky areas where carnivores hunt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-349
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume346
Issue number6207
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 17 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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