AB 17:197-209 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ab00479

Species traits and species diversity affect community stability in a multiple stressor framework

Sabine Flöder1,*, Helmut Hillebrand1,2

1Aquatic Ecology, Botanical Institute, University of Cologne, Gyrhofstr. 15, 50931 Cologne, Germany
2Present address: Plankton Ecology, Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM), Carl-von-Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Schleusenstrasse 1, 26382 Wilhelmshaven, Germany

ABSTRACT: Two decades of biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research have not yet led to consensus view on how local dominance and biodiversity affect the stability of ecosystems in the presence of disturbances. As natural systems are usually affected by multiple stressors, we tested the diversity−stability hypothesis on phytoplankton communities subjected to combinations of 2 stressors (pH reduction and simulated grazing). Monocultures revealed uncorrelated species’ sensitivities to the 2 stressors and the presence of a best-performing species (Scenedesmus obliquus). We thus selected 2 experimental species combinations, either (A) including or (B) excluding S. obliquus, and inoculated at 3 diversity levels (2, 4, 8 species). Both stressors induced significant biovolume loss and increased temporal biovolume variation, but the effect on final biomass (Btot) differed between combinations and with richness. The fast recovery of S. obliquus precluded long-term disturbance effects on Btot in Combination A. Correspondingly, these communities showed slower recovery rates and lower Btot with more species present, since the strong performance of S. obliquus was diluted by more species being present. More species-rich assemblages in Combination B lost more biovolume after stressor application, whereas the recovery rates showed a more complex pattern, depending on stressor sequence and species richness. Our study suggests that the stability of communities in the face of multiple disturbances cannot be predicted from a general diversity−stability relationship alone, but depends on the correlation between species sensitivities to different stressors and on the population dynamics of a well-performing species when dominant.

KEY WORDS:Stability · Species richness · Species identity · Stressor-induced community resistance · Disturbance

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Cite this article as: Flöder S, Hillebrand H (2012) Species traits and species diversity affect community stability in a multiple stressor framework. Aquat Biol 17:197-209. https://doi.org/10.3354/ab00479

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