An experimental test of the response of macroecological patterns to altered species interactions

Posted on 2016-08-09 - 13:46

Macroecological patterns such as the species–area relationship (SAR), the species-abundance distribution (SAD), and the species–time relationship (STR) exhibit regular behavior across ecosystems and taxa. However, determinants of these patterns remain poorly understood. Emerging theoretical frameworks for macroecology attempt to understand this regularity by ignoring detailed ecological interactions and focusing on the influence of a small number of community-level state variables, such as species richness and total abundance, on these patterns. We present results from a 15-year rodent removal experiment evaluating the response of three different macroecological patterns in two distinct annual plant communities (summer and winter) to two levels of manipulated seed predation. Seed predator manipulations significantly impacted species composition on all treatments in both communities, but did not significantly impact richness, community abundance, or macroecological patterns in most cases. However, winter community abundance and richness responded significantly to the removal of all rodents. Changes in richness and abundance were coupled with significant shifts in macroecological patterns (SADs, SARs, and STRs). Because altering species interactions only impacted macroecological patterns when the state variables of abundance and richness also changed, we suggest that, in this system, local-scale processes primarily act indirectly through these properties to determine macroecological patterns.


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