Maintenance of Positive Diversity-Stability Relations along a Gradient of Environmental Stress
Romanuk, Tamara Natasha
Vogt, Richard J.
Carscallen, Mather W.
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Background: Environmental stress is widely considered to be an important factor in regulating whether changes in diversity will affect the functioning and stability of ecological communities. Methodology/Principal Findings: We investigated the effects of a major environmental stressor (a decrease in water volume) on diversity-abundance and diversity-stability relations in laboratory microcosms composed of temperate multitrophic rock pool communities to identify differences in community and functional group responses to increasing functional group richness along a gradient of environmental stress (low, medium, and high water volume). When a greater number of functional groups were present, communities were less temporally variable and achieved higher abundances. The stabilizing effect of increased functional group richness was observed regardless of the level of environmental stress the community was subjected too. Despite the strong consistent stabilizing effect of increased functional group richness on abundance, the way that individual functional groups were affected by functional group richness differed along the stress gradient. Under low stress, communities with more functional groups present were more productive and showed evidence of strong facilitative interactions. As stress increased, the positive effect of functional group richness on community abundance was no longer observed and compensatory responses became more common. Responses of individual functional groups to functional group richness became increasing heterogeneous are stress increased, prompting shifts from linear diversity-variability/abundance relations under low stress to a mix of linear and non-linear responses under medium and high stress. The strength of relations between functional group richness and both the abundances and temporal variability of functional groups also increased as stress increased. Conclusions/Significance: While stress did not affect the relation between functional group richness and stability per se, the way in which functional groups responded to changes in functional group richness differed as stress increased. These differences, which include increases in the heterogeneity of responses of individual functional groups, increases in compensatory dynamics, and increases in the strength of richness-abundance and richness-variability relations, may be critical to maintaining stability under increasingly stressful environmental conditions.
Romanuk, Tamara N., Richard J. Vogt, Angela Young, Constance Tuck, et al. 2010. "Maintenance of Positive Diversity-Stability Relations along a Gradient of Environmental Stress." Plos One 5(4): 10378-e10378.