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Science. 2010 Jun 11;328(5984):1388-91. doi: 10.1126/science.1187820. Epub 2010 May 27.

Stochastic community assembly causes higher biodiversity in more productive environments.

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  • 1Department of Biology and Tyson Research Center, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.


Net primary productivity is a principal driver of biodiversity; large-scale regions with higher productivity generally have more species. This pattern emerges because beta-diversity (compositional variation across local sites) increases with productivity, but the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are unknown. Using data from a long-term experiment in replicate ponds, I show that higher beta-diversity at higher productivity resulted from a stronger role for stochastic relative to deterministic assembly processes with increasing productivity. This shift in the relative importance of stochasticity was most consistent with the hypothesis of more intense priority effects leading to multiple stable equilibria at higher productivity. Thus, shifts in community assembly mechanisms across a productivity gradient may underlie one of the most prominent biodiversity gradients on the planet.

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