Reduced competition enhances community temporal stability under conditions of increasing environmental stress

The stress-gradient hypothesis predicts a switch from competition to facilitation, under increasing environmental stress. However, it is unclear how important is the change in competition-facilitation balance (i.e., the net outcome of plant-plant interactions) along the stress gradient in the regulation of community temporal stability. Here, we present the results of a 5-yr mesocosm experiment that demonstrates the effects of interspecific interactions on the temporal stability of a riparian community across different drought-stress scenarios. Using removal of the dominant species, we evaluated the interplay of various mechanisms regulating the temporal stability of the subordinate species (competition-facilitation balance, species asynchrony, and dominant species stability). By simultaneous testing of these stabilizing mechanisms, we show their importance differs depending on environmental variability and harshness. These results suggest experiments and simulations that exclude interspecific interactions may not offer realistic predictions of the effects of changing hydrological regimes on ecosystem functioning.

 

Douda J., Doudová J., Hulík J., Havrdová A. & Boublík K. (2018): Reduced competition enhances community temporal stability under conditions of increasing environmental stress. Ecology 99: 2207–2216.

 

Link: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecy.2466