Control of a Desert-Grassland Transition by a Keystone Rodent Guild

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Science  21 Dec 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4988, pp. 1705-1707
DOI: 10.1126/science.250.4988.1705


Twelve years after three species of kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spp.) were removed from plots of Chihuahuan Desert shrub habitat, density of tall perennial and annual grasses had increased approximately threefold and rodent species typical of arid grassland had colonized. These were just the most recent and drmatic in a series of changes in plants and animals caused by experimental exclusion of Dipodomys. In this ecosystem kangaroo rats are a keystone guild: through seed predation and soil disturbance they have major effects on biological diversity and biogeochemical processes.

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