Negative relationships between species richness and temporal variability are common but weak in natural systems

J. E. Houlahan, D. J. Currie, K. Cottenie, G. S. Cumming, C. S. Findlay, S. D. Fuhlendorf, P. Legendre, E. H. Muldavin, D. Noble, R. Russell, R. D. Stevens, T. J. Willis, S. M. Wondzell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Effects of species diversity on population and community stability (or more precisely, the effects of species richness on temporal variability) have been studied for several decades, but there have been no large-scale tests in natural communities of predictions from theory. We used 91 data sets including plants, fish, small mammals, zooplankton, birds, and insects, to examine the relationship between species richness and temporal variability in populations and communities. Seventy-eight of 91 data sets showed a negative relationship between species richness and population variability; 46 of these relationships were statistically significant. Only five of the 13 positive richness-population variability relationships were statistically significant. Similarly, 51 of 91 data sets showed a negative relationship between species richness and community variability; of these, 26 were statistically significant. Seven of the 40 positive richness–community-variability relationships were statistically significant. We were able to test transferability (i.e., the predictive ability of models for sites that are spatially distinct from sites that were used to build the models) for 69 of 91 data sets; 35 and 31 data sets were transferable at the population and community levels, respectively. Only four were positive at the population level, and two at the community level. We conclude that there is compelling evidence of a negative relationship between species richness and temporal variability for about one-half of the ecological communities we examined. However, species richness explained relatively little of the variability in population or community abundances and resulted in small improvements in predictive ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2592-2604
Number of pages13
JournalEcology
Volume99
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Keywords

  • communities
  • cross-validation
  • diversity
  • populations
  • predictive ability
  • species richness
  • stability
  • temporal variability

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