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Direct evidence that density-dependent regulation underpins the temporal stability of abundant species in a diverse animal community

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Abstract

To understand how ecosystems are structured and stabilized, and to identify when communities are at risk of damage or collapse, we need to know how the abundances of the taxa in the entire assemblage vary over ecologically meaningful timescales. Here, we present an analysis of species temporal variability within a single large vertebrate community. Using an exceptionally complete 33-year monthly time series following the dynamics of 81 species of fishes, we show that the most abundant species are least variable in terms of temporal biomass, because they are under density-dependent (negative feedback) regulation. At the other extreme, a relatively large number of low abundance transient species exhibit the greatest population variability. The high stability of the consistently common high abundance species-a result of density-dependence-is reflected in the observation that they consistently represent over 98% of total fish biomass. This leads to steady ecosystem nutrient and energy flux irrespective of the changes in species number and abundance among the large number of low abundance transient species. While the densitydependence of the core species ensures stability under the existing environmental regime, the pool of transient species may support long-term stability by replacing core species should environmental conditions change.
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Original languageEnglish
Article number20141336
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume281
Issue number1791
Early online date6 Aug 2014
DOIs
StatePublished - 22 Sep 2014

    Research areas

  • Density-dependence, Stability, Temporal variability, Relative abundance

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