In this study, we investigated the impacts of herbivory by the introduced aquatic herbivore, nutria (Myocastor coypus), on three marsh communities of the Pearl River using fenced exclosures and control plots. Although total community above-ground biomass was reduced by 30% in the plots exposed to herbivory as compared to those protected from herbivory, we found species richness to be unaffected. When individual species were examined within each community,Panicum virgatum andAster subulatus were found to be significantly reduced by herbivory in the freshwater community,Panicum virgatum andVigna luteola were significantly increased by herbivory in the oligohaline community, and no species were significantly affected in the mesohaline community. We conclude that this herbivory has some specific effects on some plant species as well as having a general community effect.
Additional publication details
The effects of vertebrate herbivory on plant community structure in the coastal marshes of the Pearl River, Louisiana, USA