Mechanisms underpinning community stability along a latitudinal gradient: Insights from a niche-based approach

Evans Luke Christopher
Melero Yolanda
Schmucki Reto
Boersch-Supan Philipp H.
Brotons Lluís
Fontaine Colin
Jiguet Frederic
Kuussaari Mikko
Massimino Dario
Robinson Robert A.
Roy David B.
Schweiger Oliver
Settele Josef
Stefanescu Constanti
van Turnhout Chris A. M.
Oliver Tom Henry

Abstract At large scales, the mechanisms underpinning stability in natural communities may vary in importance due to changes in species composition, mean abundance, and species richness. Here we link species characteristics (niche positions) and community characteristics (richness and abundance) to evaluate the importance of stability mechanisms in 156 butterfly communities monitored across three European countries and spanning five bioclimatic regions. We construct niche-based hierarchical structural Bayesian models to explain first differences in abundance, population stability, and species richness between the countries, and then explore how these factors impact community stability both directly and indirectly (via synchrony and population stability). Species richness was partially explained by the position of a site relative to the niches of the species pool, and species near the centre of their niche had higher average population stability. The differences in mean abundance, population stability, and species richness then influenced how much variation in community stability they explained across the countries. We found, using variance partitioning, that community stability in Finnish communities was most influenced by community abundance, whereas this aspect was unimportant in Spain with species synchrony explaining most variation; the UK was somewhat intermediate with both factors explaining variation. Across all countries, the diversity?stability relationship was indirect with species richness reducing synchrony which increased community stability, with no direct effects of species richness. Our results suggest that in natural communities, biogeographical variation observed in key drivers of stability, such as population abundance and species richness, leads to community stability being limited by different factors and that this can partially be explained due to the niche characteristics of the European butterfly assemblage.

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Global Change Biology
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