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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Nov 15;102(46):16701-6. Epub 2005 Oct 31.

Community inertia of Quaternary small mammal assemblages in North America.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada. mail@brianmcgill.org

Abstract

One of the longest running debates in ecology is whether chance or determinism structures biotic communities, and this question is often studied by looking for the presence or absence of community inertia (lack of change) over time or space. Results have been equivocal. We adopted three tactics for a fresh approach: (i) allowing the answer to vary with the geographic, temporal, and taxonomic scale of study, (ii) using appropriate reference points for the amount of inertia in random biological systems, and (iii) using a robust approach for measurement of inertia. We examined fossil assemblages of mammalian communities across almost 1,000,000 years and at sites spanning approximately 3,500 km. We showed that in general there is good evidence for inertia but that the results change in a quantifiable fashion with taxonomic, spatial, and temporal scales. By using neutral theory we place a reference point on the degree of inertia and demonstrate that empirical mammalian communities show greater inertia than neutral communities over time scales >3,000 year. Although our results do not specifically reveal mechanism, they emphasize that deterministic forces are at work in structuring communities over millennia.

PMID:
16260748
PMCID:
PMC1283796
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0504225102
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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