Zero-sum, the niche,and metacommunities: long-term dynamics of community assembly

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American Naturalist, Vol: 172, Page: 257-269

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Ernest, S.K. Morgan; Brown, J. H.; Thibault, K. M.; White, E. P.; Goheen, J. R.
University of Chicago Press; Hosted by Utah State University Libraries
community dynamics; metacommunities; niche ecosystem; Biology
article description
Recent models of community assembly, structure, and dynamics have incorporated, to varying degrees, three mechanistic processes: resource limitation and interspecific competition, niche requirements of species, and exchanges between a local community and a regional species pool. Synthesizing 30 years of data from an intensively studied desert rodent community, we show that all of these processes, separately and in combination, have influenced the structural organization of this community and affected its dynamical response to both natural environmental changes and experimental perturbations. In addition, our analyses suggest that zero-sum constraints, niche differences, and metacommunity processes are inextricably linked in the ways that they affect the structure and dynamics of this system. Explicit consideration of the interaction of these processes should yield a deeper understanding of the assembly and dynamics of other ecological communities. This synthesis highlights the role that long-term data, especially when coupled with experimental manipulations, can play in assessing the fundamental processes that govern the structure and function of ecological communities.