Developing common protocols to measure tundra herbivory across spatial scales
New publication by Isabel C Barrio, Dorothée Ehrich, Eeva M Soininen et al.
Understanding and predicting large-scale ecological responses to global environmental change requires comparative studies across geographic scales with coordinated efforts and standardized methodologies. We designed, applied and assessed standardized protocols to measure tundra herbivory at three spatial scales: plot, site (habitat), and study area (landscape). The plot and site-level protocols were tested in the field during summers 2014-2015 at eleven sites, nine of them comprising warming experimental plots included in the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX). The study area protocols were assessed during 2014-2018 at 24 study areas across the Arctic. Our protocols provide comparable and easy-to-implement methods for assessing the intensity of invertebrate herbivory within ITEX plots and for characterizing vertebrate herbivore communities at larger spatial scales. We discuss methodological constraints and make recommendations for how these protocols can be used and how sampling effort can be optimized to obtain comparable estimates of herbivory, both at ITEX sites and at large landscape scales. 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.