Say for example that we want to measure herbivory across the Arctic. Herbivory is a main ecological interaction in tundra ecosystems that has the potential to counteract some of the changes in vegetation in response to ongoing warming trends. Yet, there are currently no coordinated programmes to monitor herbivory across the tundra. One of the challenges when measuring herbivory is that herbivores range from small invertebrates with relatively localized impacts to wide-ranging large mammals, so sampling protocols need to be developed at different spatial scales. In a paper recently published in Arctic Science, members of the UArctic Thematic Network on Herbivory applied and assessed standardized protocols to measure tundra herbivory at three spatial scales: plot, site (habitat), and study area (landscape). These protocols were tested in the field across a large number of sites, in collaboration with the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) and the Interactions Working Group (IWG).
These protocols provide comparable and easy-to-implement methods for assessing the intensity of invertebrate herbivory within smaller sampling plots and for characterizing vertebrate herbivore communities at larger spatial scales. The aim of these protocols is that they can be readily used to obtain comparable estimates of herbivory. The application of these protocols across the tundra biome will allow characterizing and comparing herbivore communities across tundra sites and at ecologically relevant spatial scales, providing an important step towards a better understanding of tundra ecosystem responses to large-scale environmental change.
Barrio et al (2021) Developing common protocols to measure tundra herbivory across spatial scales. Arctic Science https://doi.org/10.1139/AS-2020-0020