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Article

Gradients in the Diversity of Plants and Large Herbivores Revealed with DNA Barcoding in a Semi-Arid African Savanna

1
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
2
Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
3
Department of Natural Resources, Karatina University, Karatina 10101, Kenya
4
Mpala Research Centre, Nanyuki 555-10400, Kenya
5
Botany Department, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi 451660-0100, Kenya
6
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, CTFS-ForestGEO, Washington, DC 20560, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Luc Legal and W. John Kress
Diversity 2022, 14(3), 219; https://doi.org/10.3390/d14030219
Received: 31 January 2022 / Revised: 7 March 2022 / Accepted: 11 March 2022 / Published: 17 March 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant DNA Barcodes, Community Ecology, and Species Interactions)
Do hotspots of plant biodiversity translate into hotspots in the abundance and diversity of large mammalian herbivores? A common expectation in community ecology is that the diversity of plants and animals should be positively correlated in space, as with the latitudinal diversity gradient and the geographic mosaic of biodiversity. Whether this pattern ‘scales down’ to landscape-level linkages between the diversity of plants or the activities of highly mobile megafauna has received less attention. We investigated spatial associations between plants and large herbivores by integrating data from a plant-DNA-barcode phylogeny, camera traps, and a comprehensive map of woody plants across the 1.2-km2 Mpala Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO) plot, Kenya. Plant and large herbivore communities were strongly associated with an underlying soil gradient, but the richness of large herbivore species was negatively correlated with the richness of woody plants. Results suggest thickets and steep terrain create associational refuges for plants by deterring megaherbivores from browsing on otherwise palatable species. Recent work using dietary DNA metabarcoding has demonstrated that large herbivores often directly control populations of the plant species they prefer to eat, and our results reinforce the important role of megaherbivores in shaping vegetation across landscapes. View Full-Text
Keywords: behavioral ecology; DNA barcoding; elephant (Loxodonta africana); ForestGEO; geographic mosaic of species interactions; phylogenetic community ecology; landscape ecology; megaherbivores; phylogenetic signal; plant–herbivore interactions behavioral ecology; DNA barcoding; elephant (Loxodonta africana); ForestGEO; geographic mosaic of species interactions; phylogenetic community ecology; landscape ecology; megaherbivores; phylogenetic signal; plant–herbivore interactions
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MDPI and ACS Style

Freeman, P.T.; Ang’ila, R.O.; Kimuyu, D.; Musili, P.M.; Kenfack, D.; Lokeny Etelej, P.; Magid, M.; Gill, B.A.; Kartzinel, T.R. Gradients in the Diversity of Plants and Large Herbivores Revealed with DNA Barcoding in a Semi-Arid African Savanna. Diversity 2022, 14, 219. https://doi.org/10.3390/d14030219

AMA Style

Freeman PT, Ang’ila RO, Kimuyu D, Musili PM, Kenfack D, Lokeny Etelej P, Magid M, Gill BA, Kartzinel TR. Gradients in the Diversity of Plants and Large Herbivores Revealed with DNA Barcoding in a Semi-Arid African Savanna. Diversity. 2022; 14(3):219. https://doi.org/10.3390/d14030219

Chicago/Turabian Style

Freeman, Patrick T., Robert O. Ang’ila, Duncan Kimuyu, Paul M. Musili, David Kenfack, Peter Lokeny Etelej, Molly Magid, Brian A. Gill, and Tyler R. Kartzinel. 2022. "Gradients in the Diversity of Plants and Large Herbivores Revealed with DNA Barcoding in a Semi-Arid African Savanna" Diversity 14, no. 3: 219. https://doi.org/10.3390/d14030219

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