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The Resource Limitation of Trophic Levels in Tropical Grassland Ecosystems

A. R. E. Sinclair
Journal of Animal Ecology
Vol. 44, No. 2 (Jun., 1975), pp. 497-520
DOI: 10.2307/3608
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3608
Page Count: 24
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The Resource Limitation of Trophic Levels in Tropical Grassland Ecosystems
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Abstract

(1) Three tropical grassland systems were examined in the Serengeti region of Tanzania with respect to changes in grass off-take by ungulates, small mammals and grasshoppers, within the annual cycle. These groups comprised most of the herbivore trophic level. (2) Within all three grassland systems there was, on average, a short period of one to four months during the dry season when available food was lower than the requirements of the herbivore trophic level. Such a shortage would be sufficient to limit the herbivore populations. (3) The limiting resource was the green component of the primary production during the dry season. At this time it was sufficiently low in abundance to be affected by the density of grazing herbivores. (4) Because grasses are dormant when grazing is greatest, and can recover quickly from the impact of grazing, this vegetation-herbivore system was potentially stable. (5) The temporary shortage of the food component of the primary production limiting the herbivores could be a feature common to all terrestrial vegetation-herbivore systems. (6) Since both primary and tertiary trophic levels must also be resource limited, this work suggests that all trophic levels may be limited by their resources.

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