The mechanisms of species coexistence and diversity constitute a foundational principle in community ecology, yet the identity of these mechanisms remain as important questions in ecology. Current theory indicates that coexistence occurs as species face multiple limiting factors, such as finite resources or consumers, and trade off in their ability to cope with these limitations. Therefore, consumers should promote resource diversity, as in the case of herbivores and plants. However, in practice, herbivores do not always affect plant diversity as predicted. I examine the relationships between plant diversity and herbivores using ecological restoration and theoretical modeling. Results from my research indicate that herbivores help maintain plant diversity by easing brief periods of intense competition, even when preferentially consuming less dominant species, suggesting that existing theories of plant coexistence may not be as simple as previously thought.
Area of Expertise:
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
B.S., Brigham Young University-Idaho, 2006
M.S., University of Alaska-Fairbanks, 2009