A neutral theory with environmental stochasticity explains static and dynamic properties of ecological communities

Michael Kalyuzhny*, Ronen Kadmon, Nadav M. Shnerb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations

Abstract

Understanding the forces shaping ecological communities is crucial to basic science and conservation. Neutral theory has made considerable progress in explaining static properties of communities, like species abundance distributions (SADs), with a simple and generic model, but was criticised for making unrealistic predictions of fundamental dynamic patterns and for being sensitive to interspecific differences in fitness. Here, we show that a generalised neutral theory incorporating environmental stochasticity may resolve these limitations. We apply the theory to real data (the tropical forest of Barro Colorado Island) and demonstrate that it much better explains the properties of short-term population fluctuations and the decay of compositional similarity with time, while retaining the ability to explain SADs. Furthermore, the predictions are considerably more robust to interspecific fitness differences. Our results suggest that this integration of niches and stochasticity may serve as a minimalistic framework explaining fundamental static and dynamic characteristics of ecological communities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)572-580
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Volume18
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS.

Keywords

  • BCI
  • Community dynamics
  • Community similarity
  • Demographic stochasticity
  • Environmental stochasticity
  • Fluctuation scaling
  • Neutral theory
  • Population fluctuations
  • Species abundance distributions

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