Environmental Fluctuations Induce Scale-Dependent Compensation and Increase Stability in Plankton Ecosystems
The temporal stability of aggregate community and ecosystem properties is influenced by the variability of component populations, the interactions among populations, and the influence of environmental fluctuations on populations. Environmental fluctuations that enhance population variability are generally expected to destabilize community and ecosystem properties, but this will depend on the degree to which populations are synchronized in their dynamics. Here we use seminatural experimental ponds to show that reduced synchrony among zooplankton taxa increases the temporal stability of zooplankton density, abundance, and ecosystem productivity in fluctuating environments. However, asynchrony only occurs at long timescales (∼80‐day periods) and under recurring environmental perturbations. At shorter timescales (∼10‐day periods) and in constant environments, synchronous dynamics dominate. Our findings support recent theory indicating that compensatory dynamics can stabilize communities and ecosystems. They further indicate that environmental fluctuations can enhance the likelihood of long‐period asynchrony and thus stabilize community and ecosystem properties despite their short term destabilizing effects.
Downing, Amy L.; Brown, Bryan; Perrin, Elizabeth; Keitt, Timothy; and Leibold, Matthew, "Environmental Fluctuations Induce Scale-Dependent Compensation and Increase Stability in Plankton Ecosystems" (2008). Zoology Faculty Work. 18.
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