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Small Mammals & Community Assembly - 5002

Principal Investigator: Katharine Suding, University of Colorado, Boulder

Collaborator: Loralee Larios, University of Montana

Determining the factors that regulate plant abundance and composition has been a long-standing endeavor for ecologists. Traditionally, this issue has been viewed from a "bottom-up" perspective where research has focused primarily on determining the relative importance of environmental factors and plant-plant interactions in structuring communities. Increasingly, however, we know that "top-down" factors can influence recruitment in to local plant communities and thus play a large role in dictating ultimate community structure. This study examines how generalist herbivores (ubiquitous small mammals) influence seedling recruitment and the ultimate composition of species and traits within local plant communities. Specifically, examining the effects of herbivory by voles and granivory by mice on recruitment and establishment of plants within California valley grassland communities. The study will also identify the extent to which herbivores influence the composition of traits that influence competitive plant-plant interactions by assessing trade-offs in trait composition within communities with different productivity.