Data from: Plant controls on Late Quaternary whole ecosystem structure and function

Jeffers, E. S. (Creator), Whitehouse, N. J. (Creator), Adrian, L. (Creator), Gill, P. (Creator), Barratt, P. (Creator), Smyth, E. (Creator), Philip, L. (Creator), Dee, M. (Creator), Brooks , S. J. (Creator), Willis, K. J. (Creator), Froyd , C. A. (Creator), Watson , J. E. (Creator), Bonsall , M. B. (Creator), University of Groningen, 3-Apr-2018


  • Jeffers Elizabeth S. (Creator)
  • Whitehouse Nicki J. (Creator)
  • Lister Adrian (Creator)
  • Plunkett Gill (Creator)
  • P Barratt (Creator)
  • Smyth Emma (Creator)
  • Lamb Philip (Creator)
  • Michael Dee (Creator)
  • Brooks Stephen J. (Creator)
  • Katherine J. Willis (Creator)
  • Froyd Cynthia A. (Creator)
  • Watson Jenny E. (Creator)
  • Bonsall Michael B. (Creator)
  • Department of Zoology, University of OxfordOxford, UK
  • Univ Plymouth, University of Plymouth, Sch Geog Earth & Environm Sci
  • The Natural History Museum, London
  • Queens University Belfast
  • Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  • Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3QY, UK
  • Swansea Univ, Swansea University, Dept Biosci


Plants and animals influence biomass production and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems; however their relative importance remains unclear. We assessed the extent to which mega-herbivore species controlled plant community composition and nutrient cycling, relative to other factors during and after the Late Quaternary extinction event in Britain and Ireland, when two-thirds of the region’s mega-herbivore species went extinct. Warmer temperatures, plant-soil and plant-plant interactions, and reduced burning contributed to the expansion of woody plants and declining nitrogen availability in our five study ecosystems. Shrub biomass in particular was consistently one of the strongest predictors of ecosystem change, equaling or exceeding the effects of other biotic and abiotic factors. In contrast, there was relatively little evidence for mega-herbivore control on plant community composition and nitrogen availability. The ability of plants to determine the fate of terrestrial ecosystems during periods of global environmental change may therefore be greater than previously thought.
Date made available3-Apr-2018
PublisherUniversity of Groningen
Geographical coverageGreat Britain, Ireland
Access to the dataset Open

    Keywords on Datasets

  • megafauna extinction, nutrient cycling, plant community composition, climate change, plant-plant interactions, plant-soil interactions, landscape burning, Late Quaternary
Related Publications
  1. Plant controls on Late Quaternary whole ecosystem structure and function

    Jeffers, E. S., Whitehouse, N. J., Adrian, L., Plunkett, G., Barratt, P., Smyth, E., Lamb, P., Dee, M. W., Brooks, S. J., Willis, K. J., Froyd, C. A., Watson, J. E. & Bonsall, M. B., Jun-2018, In : Ecology Letters. 21, 6, p. 814-825 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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ID: 71705498