Asynchrony among local communities stabilises ecosystem function of metacommunities

Kevin R. Wilcox, Andrew T. Tredennick, Sally E. Koerner, Emily Grman, Lauren M. Hallett, Meghan L. Avolio, Kimberly J. La Pierre, Gregory R. Houseman, Forest Isbell, David Samuel Johnson, Juha M. Alatalo, Andrew H. Baldwin, Edward W. Bork, Elizabeth H. Boughton, William D. Bowman, Andrea J. Britton, James F. Cahill, Scott L. Collins, Guozhen Du, Anu EskelinenLaura Gough, Anke Jentsch, Christel Kern, Kari Klanderud, Alan K. Knapp, Juergen Kreyling, Yiqi Luo, Jennie R. McLaren, Patrick Megonigal, Vladimir Onipchenko, Janet Prevéy, Jodi N. Price, Clare H. Robinson, Osvaldo E. Sala, Melinda D. Smith, Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia, Lara Souza, David Tilman, Shannon R. White, Zhuwen Xu, Laura Yahdjian, Qiang Yu, Pengfei Zhang, Yunhai Zhang

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Temporal stability of ecosystem functioning increases the predictability and reliability of ecosystem services, and understanding the drivers of stability across spatial scales is important for land management and policy decisions. We used species-level abundance data from 62 plant communities across five continents to assess mechanisms of temporal stability across spatial scales. We assessed how asynchrony (i.e. different units responding dissimilarly through time) of species and local communities stabilised metacommunity ecosystem function. Asynchrony of species increased stability of local communities, and asynchrony among local communities enhanced metacommunity stability by a wide range of magnitudes (1–315%); this range was positively correlated with the size of the metacommunity. Additionally, asynchronous responses among local communities were linked with species’ populations fluctuating asynchronously across space, perhaps stemming from physical and/or competitive differences among local communities. Accordingly, we suggest spatial heterogeneity should be a major focus for maintaining the stability of ecosystem services at larger spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1534-1545
Number of pages12
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


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