NCEAS Product 25562

Collins, Scott L.; Avolio, Meghan L.; Gries, Corinna; Hallett, Lauren M.; Koerner, Sarah E.; La Pierre, Kimberly J.; Rypel, Andrew L.; Sokol, Eric R.; Fey, Samuel; Flynn, Dan; Jones, Sydney; Ladwig, Laura; Ripplinger, Julie; Jones, Matthew B. 2018. Temporal heterogeneity increases with spatial heterogeneity in ecological communities. Ecological Society of America. (Abstract)


Heterogeneity is increasingly recognized as a foundational characteristic of ecological systems. Under global change, understanding temporal community heterogeneity is necessary for predicting the stability of ecosystem functions and services. Indeed, spatial heterogeneity is commonly used in alternative stable state theory as a predictor of temporal heterogeneity and therefore an early indicator of regime shifts. To evaluate whether spatial heterogeneity in species composition is predictive of temporal heterogeneity in ecological communities, we analyzed 68 community datasets spanning freshwater and terrestrial systems where measures of species abundance were replicated over space and time. Of the 68 data sets 55 (81%) had a weak to strongly positive relationship between spatial and temporal heterogeneity, while in the remaining communities the relationship was weak to strongly negative (19%). Based on a mixed model analysis, we found a significant but weak overall positive relationship between spatial and temporal heterogeneity across all data sets combined, and within aquatic and terrestrial data sets separately. In addition, lifespan and successional stage were negatively and positively related to temporal heterogeneity, respectively. We conclude that spatial heterogeneity may be a predictor of temporal heterogeneity in ecological communities, and that this relationship may be a general property of many terrestrial and aquatic communities.