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Species multidimensional effects explain idiosyncratic responses of communities to environmental change


Tabi, Andrea; Pennekamp, Frank; Altermatt, Florian; Alther, Roman; Fronhofer, Emanuel A; Horgan, Katherine; Mächler, Elvira; Pontarp, Mikael; Petchey, Owen L; Saavedra, Serguei (2020). Species multidimensional effects explain idiosyncratic responses of communities to environmental change. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 4(8):1036-1043.

Abstract

Environmental change can alter species’ abundances within communities consistently; for example, increasing all abundances by the same percentage, or more idiosyncratically. Here, we show how comparing effects of temperature on species grown in isolation and when grown together helps our understanding of how ecological communities more generally respond to environmental change. In particular, we find that the shape of the feasibility domain (the parameter space of carrying capacities compatible with positive species’ abundances) helps to explain the composition of experimental microbial communities under changing environmental conditions. First, we introduce a measure to quantify the asymmetry of a community’s feasibility domain using the column vectors of the corresponding interaction matrix. These column vectors describe the effects each species has on all other species in the community (hereafter referred to as species’ multidimensional effects). We show that as the asymmetry of the feasibility domain increases the relationship between species’ abundance when grown together and when grown in isolation weakens. We then show that microbial communities experiencing different temperature environments exhibit patterns consistent with this theory. Specifically, communities at warmer temperatures show relatively more asymmetry; thus, the idiosyncrasy of responses is higher compared with that in communities at cooler temperatures. These results suggest that while species’ interactions are typically defined at the pairwise level, multispecies dynamics can be better understood by focusing on the effects of these interactions at the community level.

Abstract

Environmental change can alter species’ abundances within communities consistently; for example, increasing all abundances by the same percentage, or more idiosyncratically. Here, we show how comparing effects of temperature on species grown in isolation and when grown together helps our understanding of how ecological communities more generally respond to environmental change. In particular, we find that the shape of the feasibility domain (the parameter space of carrying capacities compatible with positive species’ abundances) helps to explain the composition of experimental microbial communities under changing environmental conditions. First, we introduce a measure to quantify the asymmetry of a community’s feasibility domain using the column vectors of the corresponding interaction matrix. These column vectors describe the effects each species has on all other species in the community (hereafter referred to as species’ multidimensional effects). We show that as the asymmetry of the feasibility domain increases the relationship between species’ abundance when grown together and when grown in isolation weakens. We then show that microbial communities experiencing different temperature environments exhibit patterns consistent with this theory. Specifically, communities at warmer temperatures show relatively more asymmetry; thus, the idiosyncrasy of responses is higher compared with that in communities at cooler temperatures. These results suggest that while species’ interactions are typically defined at the pairwise level, multispecies dynamics can be better understood by focusing on the effects of these interactions at the community level.

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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)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Physical Sciences > Ecology
Language:English
Date:1 August 2020
Deposited On:02 Feb 2021 14:52
Last Modified:21 Feb 2021 01:00
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2397-334X
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1206-6
PubMed ID:32572220
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID31003A_159498
  • : Project TitlePredicting the effects of temperature on ecological systems, at population, community, and ecosystem levels of organisation

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