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On the dimensionality of ecological stability


Donohue, Ian; Petchey, Owen L; Montoya, José M; Jackson, Andrew L; McNally, Luke; Viana, Mafalda; Healy, Kevin; Lurgi, Miguel; O'Connor, Nessa E; Emmerson, Mark C (2013). On the dimensionality of ecological stability. Ecology Letters, 16(4):421-429.

Abstract

Ecological stability is touted as a complex and multifaceted concept, including components such as variability, resistance, resilience, persistence and robustness. Even though a complete appreciation of the effects of perturbations on ecosystems requires the simultaneous measurement of these multiple components of stability, most ecological research has focussed on one or a few of those components analysed in isolation. Here we present a new view of ecological stability that recognises explicitly the non-independence of components of stability. This provides an approach for simplifying the concept of stability. We illustrate the concept and approach using results from a field experiment, and show that the effective dimensionality of ecological stability is considerably lower than if the various components of stability were unrelated. However, strong perturbations can modify, and even decouple, relationships among individual components of stability. Thus, perturbations not only increase the dimensionality of stability, but they can also alter the relationships among components of stability in different ways. Studies that focus on single forms of stability in isolation therefore risk underestimating significantly the potential of perturbations to destabilise ecosystems. In contrast, application of the multidimensional stability framework that we propose gives a far richer understanding of how communities respond to perturbations.

Abstract

Ecological stability is touted as a complex and multifaceted concept, including components such as variability, resistance, resilience, persistence and robustness. Even though a complete appreciation of the effects of perturbations on ecosystems requires the simultaneous measurement of these multiple components of stability, most ecological research has focussed on one or a few of those components analysed in isolation. Here we present a new view of ecological stability that recognises explicitly the non-independence of components of stability. This provides an approach for simplifying the concept of stability. We illustrate the concept and approach using results from a field experiment, and show that the effective dimensionality of ecological stability is considerably lower than if the various components of stability were unrelated. However, strong perturbations can modify, and even decouple, relationships among individual components of stability. Thus, perturbations not only increase the dimensionality of stability, but they can also alter the relationships among components of stability in different ways. Studies that focus on single forms of stability in isolation therefore risk underestimating significantly the potential of perturbations to destabilise ecosystems. In contrast, application of the multidimensional stability framework that we propose gives a far richer understanding of how communities respond to perturbations.

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45 citations in Web of Science®
44 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:19 Sep 2013 08:45
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:38
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1461-023X
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12086
PubMed ID:23419041

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