News release: Earth's wild grazers can’t keep up with the effects of nutrient pollution

December 02, 2020


Zebra grazing

Human activity is transforming natural environments everywhere on Earth. Nutrients — such as nitrogen and phosphorus — that are produced through burning fossil fuel, using fertilizers in agriculture, and other activities are boosting plant growth in grasslands and other ecosystems. The additional plant growth from nutrient pollution can lead to increased fire risk, loss of native species and invasion of non-native species. Wild herbivores eat some of the plant growth, but not enough to counteract these negative impacts according to a new study from the University of Minnesota published in Nature Communications.

The study was based on a globally replicated experiment conducted at 58 sites on six continents led by Elizabeth Borer, a professor in the College of Biological Sciences and co-founder of the Nutrient Network global ecological research collaborative. Working with scientists from around the world who are contributing to the Nutrient Network, the research team was able to conduct exactly the same experiment at each site involved in the experiment. Read more