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Am Nat. 2008 Aug;172(2):E48-66. doi: 10.1086/589746.

Species synchrony and its drivers: neutral and nonneutral community dynamics in fluctuating environments.

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1
Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 avenue Docteur Penfield, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada. michel.loreau@mcgill.ca

Abstract

Independent species fluctuations are commonly used as a null hypothesis to test the role of competition and niche differences between species in community stability. This hypothesis, however, is unrealistic because it ignores the forces that contribute to synchronization of population dynamics. Here we present a mechanistic neutral model that describes the dynamics of a community of equivalent species under the joint influence of density dependence, environmental forcing, and demographic stochasticity. We also introduce a new standardized measure of species synchrony in multispecies communities. We show that the per capita population growth rates of equivalent species are strongly synchronized, especially when endogenous population dynamics are cyclic or chaotic, while their long-term fluctuations in population sizes are desynchronized by ecological drift. We then generalize our model to nonneutral dynamics by incorporating temporal and nontemporal forms of niche differentiation. Niche differentiation consistently decreases the synchrony of species per capita population growth rates, while its effects on the synchrony of population sizes are more complex. Comparing the observed synchrony of species per capita population growth rates with that predicted by the neutral model potentially provides a simple test of deterministic asynchrony in a community.

PMID:
18598188
DOI:
10.1086/589746
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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