Large herbivore diversity slows sea ice-associated decline in arctic tundra diversity.
Post E., Kaarlejärvi E., Macias-Fauria M., Watts DA., Bøving PS., Cahoon SMP., Higgins RC., John C., Kerby JT., Pedersen C., Post M., Sullivan PF.
Biodiversity is declining globally in response to multiple human stressors, including climate forcing. Nonetheless, local diversity trends are inconsistent in some taxa, obscuring contributions of local processes to global patterns. Arctic tundra diversity, including plants, fungi, and lichens, declined during a 15-year experiment that combined warming with exclusion of large herbivores known to influence tundra vegetation composition. Tundra diversity declined regardless of experimental treatment, as background growing season temperatures rose with sea ice loss. However, diversity declined slower with large herbivores than without them. This difference was associated with an increase in effective diversity of large herbivores as formerly abundant caribou declined and muskoxen increased. Efforts that promote herbivore diversity, such as rewilding, may help mitigate impacts of warming on tundra diversity.