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Model responses to CO2 and warming are underestimated without explicit representation of Arctic small-mammal grazing
Ecological Applications  (IF4.657),  Pub Date : 2021-10-17, DOI: 10.1002/eap.2478
Edward B. Rastetter, Kevin L. Griffin, Rebecca J. Rowe, Laura Gough, Jennie R. McLaren, Natalie T. Boelman

We use a simple model of coupled carbon and nitrogen cycles in terrestrial ecosystems to examine how explicitly representing grazers versus having grazer effects implicitly aggregated in with other biogeochemical processes in the model alters predicted responses to elevated carbon dioxide and warming. The aggregated approach can affect model predictions because grazer-mediated processes can respond differently to changes in climate from the processes with which they are typically aggregated. We use small-mammal grazers in arctic tundra as an example and find that the typical three-to-four-year cycling frequency is too fast for the effects of cycle peaks and troughs to be fully manifested in the ecosystem biogeochemistry. We conclude that implicitly aggregating the effects of small-mammal grazers with other processes results in an underestimation of ecosystem response to climate change relative to estimations in which the grazer effects are explicitly represented. The magnitude of this underestimation increases with grazer density. We therefore recommend that grazing effects be incorporated explicitly when applying models of ecosystem response to global change.