Therelative importance of biodiversity in the stability of plantpopulations in successional communities

Rollins, S.L., C.A. Parker, K.L. Gross and G.G. Mittelbach.

Presented at the All Scientist Meeting (2004-10-08 )

Theoretical models and experiments suggesting that populations are less stable in diverse communities have formed much of our current understanding of biodiversity-stability relationships. However, simplifications of natural communities may exclude potentially important features of complex ecosystems which may also affect population stability. By incorporating natural complexities, investigations of biodiversity-stability relationships in self-assembled communities can lead to insights regarding the relative importance of biodiversity and can help put theory and experimental findings into context. We examined the relationship between population stability and species richness in successional fields at the Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Ecological Research site over a twelve year period. Contrary to most prior research, populations appear to be more stable at higher species densities; however, accounting for temporal trends in species richness and stability generates an alternative interpretation. Our analyses suggest that species density dampens the positive temporal trend in stability, supporting previous theoretical and experimental findings that diversity has a negative effect on population stability. In this system, regional and life history characteristics associated with successional patterns appear to have a stronger influence on population stability than does biodiversity.

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