Herbivores enforce sharp boundaries between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems

  • Published source details Sarneel J.M., Huig N., Veen G.F., Rip W. & Bakker E.S. (2014) Herbivores enforce sharp boundaries between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Ecosystems, 17, 1426-1438.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Exclude wild vertebrates: freshwater marshes

Action Link
Marsh and Swamp Conservation
  1. Exclude wild vertebrates: freshwater marshes

    A replicated, paired, controlled study in ten freshwater wetlands in the Netherlands (Sarneel et al. 2014) found that plots fenced to exclude wild waterbirds and rodents contained more, and richer but not more diverse, emergent vegetation than plots that remained open to grazing. In both the first and second growing season after intervention, fenced plots had higher emergent vegetation cover (47–62%) than open plots (34–36%). Cover also increased significantly more over time in the fenced plots. In both growing seasons, fenced plots had higher emergent plant species richness than open plots, but statistically similar emergent plant diversity (data not reported). In the first growing season, fenced plots contained more above-ground vegetation biomass, in both permanently flooded areas (fenced: 1,220; open: 790 g/m2) and saturated areas (fenced: 320; open: 180 g/m2). In the second growing season, emergent vegetation extended further into the water in fenced plots (fenced: 490 cm; open: 360 cm). Methods: In March 2011, fifty pairs of 3 x 6 m plots were established at the margins of 10 wetlands. Each plot contained emergent vegetation and open water. One plot in each pair was fenced (chicken wire sides, additional wire on top) to exclude large animals (waterbirds and muskrats Ondatra zibethicus). Plant species and their cover were recorded in a 6-m-long transect crossing each plot in July 2011 and 2012. All vegetation was cut, dried and weighed from two 0.2-m2 quadrats/plot in August 2011.

    (Summarised by: Nigel Taylor)

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