Title: Clipping by plateau pikas and impacts to plant community
Authors: Wen Na Zhang, Qian Wang, Jing Zhang, Xiao Pan Pang, Hai Peng Xu, Juan Wang, Zheng Gang Guo*
Journal: Rangeland Ecology & Management
Abstract:Plateau pikas (Ochotona curzoniae) often clip tall plants near active burrow entrances to detect and avoid predators. This clipping behavior influencing plant communities near active burrow entrances has not been well documented. A field experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of this clipping behavior on plant communities across three sites in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau by comparing plant communities near active burrow entrances with communities near abandoned burrow entrances. This study showed that the clipping behavior decreased plant community height and increased plant cover and species richness of the community and had no effect on plant community biomass across three sites or at each site. This study further showed that clipping behavior decreased the plant biomass of the graminoid group and had no effect on the plant species richness of the graminoid group, whereas it increased the plant biomass and plant species richness of the forb group across the three sites or at each site. These findings suggest that a general pattern concerning the effect of the clipping behavior can increase plant species richness and decrease the grazing quality of alpine meadows near active burrow entrances.