Snell Taylor, S. J., B. S. Evans, E. P. White, and A. H. Hurlbert. 2018. The prevalence and impact of transient species in ecological communities. Ecology 99:1825-1835.
Transient species occur infrequently in a community over time and do not maintain viable local populations. Because transient species interact differently than non-transients with their biotic and abiotic environment, it is important to characterize the prevalence of these species and how they impact our understanding of ecological systems. We quantified the prevalence and impact of transient species in communities using data on over 19,000 community time series spanning an array of ecosystems, taxonomic groups, and spatial scales. We found that transient species are a general feature of communities regardless of taxa or ecosystem. The proportion of these species decreases with increasing spatial scale leading to a need to control for scale in comparative work. Removing transient species from analyses influences the form of a suite of commonly studied ecological patterns including species-abundance distributions, species-energy relationships, species-area relationships, and temporal turnover. Careful consideration should be given to whether transient species are included in analyses depending on the theoretical and practical relevance of these species for the question being studied.
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