The temporal dynamics of community structure.
Ernest, Morgan*,1, Gaedke, Ursula2, Muldavin, Esteban 3, Stevens, Richard4, Willis, Theodore5, Woiwod, Ian6, 1 Utah State University, Logan, UT2 Universitat Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany3 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM4 Louisianna State University, Baton Rouge, LA5 University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada6 Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, United Kingdom
ABSTRACT- The rank-abundance distribution has long been used to provide insight into the mechanisms by which species divide resources. The assumption that the rank abundance distribution is a static property of a community has justified its use in theoretical studies of resource allocation, community assembly, and coexistence mechanisms. While the shape of the rank-abundance distribution has been well studied, the temporal dynamics of this distribution have received less attention. A recent study using long-term data from desert rodents suggested that the rank-abundance distribution may be very dynamic in shape through time. Here we assess changes in the shape of this distribution through time using long-term data from several communities, varying in ecosystem type from desert to aquatic and in taxonomic focus from plants to insects to vertebrates. Analysis of these communities reveals that significant temporal variability in the shape of the rank-abundance distribution may not be rare in ecological communities. Furthermore, results from these communities suggest that changes in species composition may drive the temporal dynamics of the rank-abundance distribution. In general, these results suggest that to understand the mechanisms that generate rank-abundance distributions we need to have a better understanding of the processes generating the temporal dynamics of this distribution.
Key words: rank abundance distribution, temporal dynamics, community ecology, long-term data
All materials copyright The Ecological Society of America (ESA), and may not be used without written permission.